Sam Altman, one of the most important personalities in the realm of artificial intelligence, is being driven out of OpenAI — the firm behind the enormously popular ChatGPT chatbot he helped design - after the board expressed doubts about his leadership abilities.
Mira Murati, an Albanian-born Dartmouth-educated engineer who served as OpenAI's chief technology officer and helped design some of the company's most well-known products, will serve as interim CEO.
"Mr. Altman's departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities," according to a statement released by the organization. "The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI."
With the presentation of ChatGPT to the globe by OpenAI, Altman, 38, became an instant celebrity, meeting world leaders such as US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. He is an active personality in the AI community, identifying himself with evangelists who have pioneered and advanced AI technology while also warning of its potential to destroy humanity.
His resignation surprised people inside and outside the company, as Altman was still sending regular emails to staff as of late Friday morning, according to a person familiar with the situation.
"I loved my time at openai," Altman tweeted on Friday. "It was transformative for me personally, and hopefully for the rest of the world." Most importantly, I enjoyed working with such creative people." Altman added: “Will have more to say about what’s next later.”
Altman, as CEO, built OpenAI into the world's most influential artificial intelligence startup. The corporation was reportedly in talks to sell employee stock to investors for $86 billion. ChatGPT and OpenAI's picture generator Dall-E popularised generative AI. Both technologies make use of a technology that trains on massive amounts of digital data and can generate human-like stuff like photos, text, and code when prompted.
OpenAI, which was founded in 2015, published ChatGPT around a year ago, sparking a surge of interest in AI technology. According to the company, about 100 million users use ChatGPT each week, and more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies are developing solutions on OpenAI's platform. According to Bloomberg, the company sells software to corporations and is on target to earn $1 billion in revenue this year.
Simultaneously, OpenAI is facing increasing competition from well-funded alternative solutions built at other startups and digital behemoths, like Alphabet Inc.'s Google.
According to those familiar with the situation, hundreds of millions of dollars in secondary market trade in closely held OpenAI shares has been halted in the hours following Altman's resignation. Some transactions have been put on hold, while others have been completely annulled, according to the sources.
Those inside and outside the organisation were left to speculate about OpenAI's future in the absence of its long-time leader and public face. Pieter Abbeel, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and the founder of an AI business who worked as a research scientist at OpenAI in 2016 and 2017, said he was "completely baffled" to hear Altman had been fired.
"It's kind of crazy to think that GPT-4 would not have existed without Sam," he went on to say. While Altman was one of several significant employees at the business, he was instrumental in directing OpenAI and generating the massive amount of money required for it to construct increasingly powerful AI models, according to Abbeel.
According to Rowan Curran, a Forrester senior analyst who covers generative AI and machine learning, the board's decision to remove Altman from the CEO position should be seen similarly to prior executive-level changes in the technology industry.
"Sam Altman was obviously a force at OpenAI and did a lot to bring the company where it is," said Mr. Altman. "But there's no reason at this point to think there are any underlying issues with the company or the technology or its approach, given what we know at this time."
Greg Brockman, an OpenAI co-founder and former chairman of the board, is also quitting the board but will continue to serve as president of OpenAI.
"Given her long tenure and close engagement with all aspects of the company, including her experience in AI governance and policy, the board believes she is uniquely qualified for the role and anticipates a seamless transition while it conducts a formal search for a permanent CEO," the company said in a statement.