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Vacation, shmacation – I may be crossing the pond right now on PTO, but how could I not address the Mutiny on the Bounty (exclusive to me, Board) happening right now on OpenAI? Have you heard the latest: that more than 500 OpenAI employees signed a letter saying they can resign and join Sam Altman at Microsoft (which was the latest news before this latest news, which came after the previous latest news about all those heart emojis) unless OpenAI’s nonprofit board resigns and reappoints Altman?
Let me go back to a week ago. Last Monday, I posted a story about how OpenAI’s six-member board had the power to decide “when we reach AGI.” I wrote about OpenAI’s nonprofit structure, which several lawyers I spoke to called “unusual,” which wielded power over the for-profit side of the company and the various board members with ties to the Altruism movement. Cash.
Recapping my reports in the context of the overthrow of Sam Altman
Friday was a whirlwind day as OpenAI’s board fired its CEO Sam Altman, replaced him in the interim with chief technology officer CTO Mira Murati, and president Greg Brockman was removed as board chairman and then resigned afterward. of Altman’s overthrow. I recapped the crazy coincidence of last week’s story with a post on my Substack called “I spent last weekend writing about the nonprofit OpenAI board, now at the heart of Sam Altman’s overthrow.”
In that post, I noted that, in the context of my original article, it made sense to me that OpenAI’s nonprofit board, whose mission was to focus on AI safety concerns, not marketing products, would be on the center of the overthrow of Altman and Brockman. board removal. The Information reported that when board member Ilya Sutskever, chief scientist at OpenAI, said that “the board was doing its duty to the nonprofit’s mission, which is to ensure that OpenAI builds AGI that benefits all humanity.”
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OpenAI CEO’s musical chairs spark employee mutiny
Of course, then all hell broke loose. After OpenAI’s board received massive blowback from investors including Microsoft, discussions suddenly began to… you guessed it, bring it back. There was the photo of Altman wearing a visitor’s badge at the company’s headquarters on Sunday. There were the hundreds of OpenAI employees who posted heart emojis indicating they were on his side.
Then, more drama: A few hours later, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Altman and Brockman would be joining the company to head a new advanced AI research unit and seemed willing to welcome any employees from OpenAI ready to abandon ship. But that’s not all: In another dizzying move, the same OpenAI board that kicked Altman to the curb suddenly ousted Murati and appointed still-interim CEO Emmett Shear, former CEO of video game streaming site Twitch .
This seemed to be the final straw: Wired’s Steven Levy reported today that “some OpenAI staff stayed up all night debating a course of action following the news that Altman would not be returning to OpenAI. Many employees were frustrated by the lack of communication regarding Altman’s firing. Dozens of employees seemed to signal their willingness to jump ship and join Altman last night by posting: “OpenAI is nothing without its people.” in X. In his letter, OpenAI staff threaten to join Altman at Microsoft. “Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees in this new subsidiary should we decide to join,” they write.
AI Safety Misalignment Leads to Human Mutiny
It seems ironic, to say the least, that the unprecedented actions of OpenAI’s nonprofit board (which took its AI safety mission so seriously that they would actually fire the CEO) would actually undermine its efforts by creating industry-wide uncertainty and fracturing trust with its employees, leading those employees to carry out their own mutiny and, as a result, leaving OpenAI weaker and likely less secure, at least in the short term. Certainly, the board’s mission to create artificial intelligence that benefits all humanity has slowed down significantly.
Chief scientist Ilya Sutskever certainly seems to regret his actions, with a post in X this morning saying: “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. “I love everything we have built together and will do everything I can to bring the company together.”
Ultimately, OpenAI showed that, for now, it’s still humans who make mistakes and go rogue. AI is apparently doing well, but humans have a lot of work to do. Board governance may seem boring compared to building AGI, but in retrospect, it seems that OpenAI, and its stated mission of building secure AGI, would have been better off if it had focused on building a better board. Instead, it seems he has a mutiny on his hands.
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