I’ll start by saying: I don’t know all the details about why Mr. Altman was pushed out. Neither, it seems, do OpenAI’s shellshocked employees, investors and business partners, many of whom learned of the move at the same time as the general public. In a blog post on Friday, the company said that Mr. Altman “was not consistently candid in his communications” with the board, but gave no other details.
An all-hands meeting for OpenAI employees on Friday afternoon didn’t reveal much more. Ilya Sutskever, the company’s chief scientist and a member of its board, defended the ouster, according to a person briefed on his remarks. He dismissed employees’ suggestions that pushing Mr. Altman out amounted to a “hostile takeover” and claimed it was necessary to protect OpenAI’s mission of making artificial intelligence beneficial to humanity, the person said.
Brad Lightcap, an OpenAI executive, told employees on Saturday morning that the company had been talking with the board to “better understand the reason and process behind their decision,” according to an internal message I obtained.
“We can say definitively that the board’s decision was not made in response to malfeasance or anything related to our financial, business, safety or security/privacy practices,” he wrote. “This was a breakdown in communication between Sam and the board.”
It seems like what is left of the board is having second thoughts, according to Alex Heath and Nilay Patel:
The OpenAI board is in discussions with Sam Altman to return to CEO, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. One of them said Altman, who was suddenly fired by the board on Friday with no notice, is “ambivalent” about coming back and would want significant governance changes.
Altman holding talks with the company just a day after he was ousted indicates that OpenAI is in a state of free-fall without him. Hours after he was axed, Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president and former board chairman, resigned, and the two have been talking to friends and investors about starting another company. A string of senior researchers also resigned on Friday, and people close to OpenAI say more departures are in the works.
Siri, play the theme song from Curb Your Enthusiasm.
(For what it’s worth, I think Steve Troughton-Smith’s take on all of this is exactly right.)