500+ OpenAI staff threaten resignation

We’ve been glued to our phones following the drama unfolding at the world’s (arguably) most important AI company so that you don’t have to

What happened: OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT and widely regarded as one of the organizations at the forefront of AI research, is embroiled in a dramatic internal power struggle.

Catch up: The turmoil began on Friday night when OpenAI CEO and co-founder Sam Altman was turfed from the company by its board of directors. 

  • The dismissal came as a shock to OpenAI’s staff and investors, including Microsoft, which has invested US$13 billion in the company and regards it as key to its own AI efforts.
  • Several high-level OpenAI staff resigned in solidarity with Altman, including the company’s president, Greg Brockman.
  • OpenAI has since hired former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear to serve as CEO, while Altman has joined Microsoft to spin up a new AI subsidiary there.

  • This morning, more than 500 of OpenAI's 770 staff threatened to quit and join Altman at Microsoft unless he is reinstated as CEO — something Altman himself has reportedly said he'll only do if the entire board resigns.

Why it’s happening: That’s not entirely clear. In its statement announcing Altman’s firing, the board said he “was not consistently candid in his communications with the board.”

We aren't quite sure what that means, but some reports have suggested that a disagreement between Altman and co-founder and board member Ilya Sutskever over the company's direction played a pivotal role.

  • Sutskever has reportedly grown concerned that Altman is not paying sufficient attention to the potential risks of powerful AI technology.
  • Two other OpenAI board members also have links to the “effective altruist” movement, which worries that AI may eventually lead to the destruction of humanity.

Zoom out: The big winner of the turmoil so far may have been Microsoft, which appears poised to pick up much of OpenAI's team for free (and without any of that organization's messy corporate structure).