OpenAI's board of directors just fired CEO Sam Altman for not being "consistently candid" in his communications.
CTO Mira Murati has been appointed as the interim CEO to lead the lab in the meantime as the board finds a new boss.
In a statement Friday, the board of directors said: "OpenAI was deliberately structured to advance our mission: to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all humanity. The board remains fully committed to serving this mission. We are grateful for Sam's many contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI. At the same time, we believe new leadership is necessary as we move forward."
Altman, an OpenAI co-founder, was ousted after the board claimed it found he had not been completely honest and forthright in his conversations, leading the directors to feel a lack of confidence in his abilities to continue as CEO.
The move comes as a shock. Launched as a non-profit with a culture of openness in 2015, Altman changed the upstart as it transformed into a secretive for-profit biz. OpenAI is seen as a leader in generative AI technology, and was the first outfit to commercialize large language models in a big way with its GPT-3 system.
Since then, OpenAI has developed many other types of AI models with other generative capabilities, such as its text-to-image DALL-E, code-writing Codex used in GitHub Copilot, and more - including ChatGPT, its most well-known product.
Under Altman, the startup's valuation catapulted as it attracted billions of dollars from investors. Its largest backer Microsoft splashed what is believed to have been $10 billion on a deal with OpenAI that gave it 49 percent stake in the upstart at a valuation of a whopping $29 billion. At the same time, Microsoft has been keen to slap its own branding over OpenAI's technology as the Windows and Azure giant integrates the lab's neural networks into every corner of its products and services.
Altman's sudden exit comes just as OpenAI talked up its app-store-like marketplace for GPTs, which are applications built on top of its AI chatbot ChatGPT.
Nothing seemed amiss as Altman announced the new services during the US-based lab's first developer conference a few weeks ago. Prior to this, he was flying around the globe talking to world leaders about the potential and dangers of AI as governments work towards crafting policy to regulate the technology. On Thursday, Altman showed up at the high-profile Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in San Francisco, attended by US President Joe Biden and China's President Xi Jinping.
But behind closed doors, it must have been a different story for the board to fire him. "We believe new leadership is necessary as we move forward. As the leader of the company's research, product, and safety functions, Mira is exceptionally qualified to step into the role of interim CEO. We have the utmost confidence in her ability to lead OpenAI during this transition period," the org said of the CTO.
OpenAI's board of directors include its co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever; Quora CEO Adam D'Angelo; entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology's Director of Strategy and Foundational Research Grants Helen Toner. Co-founder Greg Brockman was chairman of the board, and will be stepping down as part of the reshuffle. ®
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