December 1, 2023
This may be why OpenAI fired Sam Altman

Yes, we can see why corporate governance wouldn’t like this.

A warning to anyone who is interested in extracurricular activities: If you’re the CEO of the world’s preeminent AI maker, your board might not be thrilled with your extracurricular activities.

It’s still unclear why OpenAI’s recently fired CEO Sam Altman was ousted from the fast-rising Silicon Valley AI company with which he has become more or less synonymous. Altman was not only one of the original founders of the AI ​​maker, but also its public face, making press-heavy splashes in the White House, making oddly religious-sounding AI predictions, and overall being Oppenheimer’s head of the rising AI era. The form was skewed in his casting. Thus, his removal was a surprise to everyone outside OpenAI’s now-weakening board, including most of OpenAI’s employees, the CEO of heavily OpenAI-invested Microsoft, and Altman himself.

Upon Altman’s dismissal, announced on Friday, OpenAI issued a vague statement — since updated — noting that a “deliberative review process” by the board had concluded that the charismatic leader “is in conflict with the board.” Was not consistently clear in its communications, hindering its ability to perform its responsibilities.” This is incredibly vague, and has given rise to intense speculation. Does the lack of “candor” mean that Altman lied to the company’s governing body?

And now, a viable explanation may have floated to the surface. As bloomberg According to reports, before his shocking ouster Altman was spending time raising money for a new chip venture pitched as a competitor to Nvidia in the Middle East – a high-dollar side project, which sources said It is said that there has been additional pressure on an already strained relationship.

Per bloomberg, Altman’s side, called “Tigris”, appears to be quite ambitious. Nvidia dominates the semiconductor market, as its popular GPU chips remain a favorite among AI startups for their computing power; According to Altman bloomberg, is looking to take some of that market share from Nvidia by introducing its own low-cost tensor processing units, or TPUs, into the industry. This will not only displace the incumbent in the market, but will also give OpenAI more control over its production, making its products cheaper in the long run.

Although the envisioned chip would theoretically reduce production costs over time, the effort certainly won’t be cheap on the front end. According to bloomberg, Altman is seeking billions of dollars for the new venture from companies such as SoftBank, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Mubadala Investment Co. So, no small effort!

And it’s not just Tigris for which the former OpenAI CEO – who has already found employment at Microsoft – is said to be looking for investors. According to bloombergAltman is also collaborating with famed Apple designer Jony Ive on a secret AI hardware effort, which he was actively pitching to potential funders in the Middle East leading up to his surprise firing.

You’ll also notice a risky throughline between those side projects: They’ll both be swimming in the same financial waters as OpenAI, with the chip maker potentially selling its hardware and Jony Ive potentially using its API.

Even OpenAI’s charismatic leader must have had a particularly difficult time getting buy-in to his side. Per bloomberg, OpenAI is trying to float a delicate proposal that would “allow employees to sell their shares at a valuation of $86 billion.” It may well be that OpenAI’s board feared that Altman’s personal fundraising could scuttle the deal, or worse, lead to government scrutiny, especially given the federal government’s special expertise around technologies like AI and chips. Considering the sensitivity.

Still, this fundraising may just be the final back-breaking straw. OpenAI’s structure is quite bizarre – it’s a for-profit company controlled by a non-profit board, and in the past year, it seems the company’s non-profit “open” roots have been challenged more than ever. As AI security concerns continue to grow, it seems these debates have come to a head Inside OpenAI.

according to a different bloomberg According to the report, such friction was remarkably evident between Altman and Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist and disciple of Geoffrey Hinton. Sutskever reportedly felt that OpenAI, under Altman’s leadership, was paying too little attention to security standards and guardrails and was moving forward carelessly. These tensions reportedly reached an inflection point in OpenAI’s recent debacle; Some of Altman’s estimates and promises were relayed to Sutskever, who then took his complaints to the board.

This is not a new pattern for OpenAI, which has seen major breakups in the past as a result of differing AI security considerations. But interestingly, Sutskever himself has now backed down, announced in a tweet Today he “deeply [regrets]”His participation in the functioning of the Board.”

He added, “It was never my intention to harm OpenAI.” “I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to bring the company back together.”

Altman, for his part, express reaction With three red heart emojis.

More on OpenAI: Microsoft immediately hires Sam Altman after he is fired by OpenAI


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