ChatGPT-maker Open AI pushes out co-founder and CEO Sam Altman

17 November 2023, 22:14

Sam Altman
APEC Future of AI. Picture: PA

The company has appointed Mira Murati, OpenAI’s chief technology officer, to an interim CEO role effective immediately.

The board of ChatGPT-maker Open AI said it has pushed out its co-founder and chief executive Sam Altman after a review found he was “not consistently candid in his communications” with the board.

“The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI,” the company said in a statement.

Mira Murati, OpenAI’s chief technology officer, will take over as interim CEO effective immediately, the company said, while it searches for a permanent replacement.

A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what the alleged lack of candour was about.

The ChatGPT website
Sam Altman helped start OpenAI as a non-profit research laboratory in 2015 (John Walton/PA)

The statement said Mr Altman’s behaviour was hindering the board’s ability to exercise its responsibilities.

Mr Altman posted on Friday on X, formerly Twitter: “i loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people. will have more to say about what’s next later.”

Mr Altman helped start OpenAI as a non-profit research laboratory in 2015.

But in the past year, he was thrust into the global spotlight as the face of OpenAI after ChatGPT exploded into public consciousness.

On a world tour earlier this year, Mr Altman was mobbed by a crowd of adoring fans at an event in London.

Just on Thursday, he took part in a CEO summit at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation conference in San Francisco, where OpenAI is based.

Mr Altman predicted AI will prove to be “the greatest leap forward of any of the big technological revolutions we’ve had so far”.

But he also acknowledged the need for guardrails to protect humanity from the existential threat posed by the quantum leaps being taking by computers.

“I really think the world is going to rise to the occasion and everybody wants to do the right thing,” Mr Altman said.

As part of the transition announced on Friday, OpenAI’s president and board chairman Greg Brockman will be stepping down as chairman of the board but will remain in his role at the company, reporting to the CEO.

The statement gave no explanation for that change.

The company said its board consists of OpenAI’s chief scientist Ilya Sutskever and three non-employees: Quora chief executive Adam D’Angelo, tech entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner of the Georgetown Centre for Security and Emerging Technology.

OpenAI’s key business partner, Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars into the start-up and helped provide the computing power to run its AI systems, said on Friday that the transition will not affect its relationship.

“We have a long-term partnership with OpenAI and Microsoft remains committed to Mira and their team as we bring this next era of AI to our customers,” said an emailed Microsoft statement.

OpenAI started out as a non-profit research laboratory when it launched in December 2015 with financial backing from Tesla chief executive Elon Musk and others.

Its stated aims were to “advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return”.

That changed in 2018 when it incorporated a for-profit business Open AI LP, and shifted nearly all its staff into the business, not long after releasing its first generation of the GPT large language model for generating paragraphs of readable text.

Around the same time, Mr Musk, who had co-chaired its board, resigned from the board in a move that the start-up tied to eliminating a “potential future conflict for Elon” due to Tesla’s work on building automated driving systems.

The Associated Press and OpenAI have a licensing and technology agreement that allows OpenAI access to part of AP’s text archives.

By Press Association

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