December 6, 2023
OpenAI staff threaten to move to Microsoft if they don’t leave the board

(Bloomberg) — Most of OpenAI’s employees have threatened to resign and ousted leader Sam Altman will join Microsoft Corp unless the current board resigns, making the future of the high-profile artificial intelligence startup increasingly uncertain. .

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A letter signed by nearly 600 of the artificial intelligence firm’s approximately 770 employees on Monday said the signatories are “unable to work for or with people who have the capacity, judgment and care for our mission and employees.” There is a shortage.”

After a tumultuous weekend that began with Altman being abruptly fired by the OpenAI board on Friday, Microsoft, which owns about half of the startup, appointed Altman and fellow OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman to a new in- House brought in to lead AI research team. ,

“Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees in this new subsidiary if we choose to join,” the employees wrote in the letter.

This change will reshape the world of artificial intelligence. OpenAI – creator of the hugely popular ChatGPT app, which brought generative AI into the mainstream with Altman – has been at the center of the fast-moving technology. At its core it boils down to whether AI should be a business opportunity or a potentially dangerous technology that needs to be examined and scrutinized at every turn.

Altman’s ouster from the company he co-founded throws OpenAI into turmoil. Thrive Capital was expected to lead an offer for employee shares, a deal that would value OpenAI at $86 billion. As of this weekend, the company had still not collected the money and told OpenAI that Altman’s departure would impact its operations.

Some investors were considering writing down the value of their OpenAI holdings to zero, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The potential move, which would make it more difficult for the company to raise additional money, appears designed to put pressure on the board to resign and bring back Altman.

Plans for a second tender in early 2024 were also on the table, which would have given early-stage investors a chance to get some liquidity on their shares, the people said. As recently as last week, blocks of private shares of OpenAI were being offered, valuing OpenAI at more than $100 billion. That market dried up after news broke Friday that Altman had been fired by the board, leaving millions of dollars worth of private transactions pending.

Board member Ilya Sutskever, who has been seen as playing a key role in the board’s actions, said in a tweet on Monday that he regretted his participation in the alleged coup.

The staff letter is endorsed by Mira Muratti, OpenAI’s chief technology officer (and briefly interim CEO). This follows several posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, by OpenAI employees with the words “OpenAI is nothing without its people”, indicating solidarity with Altman and Brockman. .

Wired previously reported on the employee letter.

The letter said Altman’s dismissal came as a surprise to OpenAI employees as well as Microsoft, the startup’s largest shareholder and closest technology partner. A coalition of powerful investors, company leaders and the world’s largest software company tried over the weekend to reinstate Altman but to no avail.

Late Sunday night, the company’s four-person board appointed Emmett Shearer, co-founder and former CEO of game-streaming website Twitch. Shear, who became OpenAI’s second interim chief executive in three days, won over directors because of his previous recognition of the dangers presented by AI, said a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. Asked for.

Shear is a well-known technologist and computer scientist who has long advocated a more cautious approach to AI. He laid out priorities for his first 30 days in charge in a post on X, promising to improve the leadership team and appoint an independent investigator to look into the circumstances of Altman’s termination. This was clearly not enough to stop employees from issuing their board ultimatum. Shear did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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(Detailed update on OpenAI investors and funding)

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