On November 6, 2023 Sam Altman was one of the most important people on the planet. On that day OpenAI held its developer conference. All eyes were on him. After all, in one year he made the company worth US$90 billion (about R$441 billion).
Altman served as master of ceremonies. He announced impressive advances in the company’s artificial intelligence model, including that anyone could create their own artificial intelligence and sell their services through the company’s website. He looked like a new Steve Jobs. From the stage, he casually announced technological changes capable of affecting the entire planet.
Cut to November 17th. Sam Altman is summarily fired by OpenAI’s board. The news circulating is that neither Altman nor the company’s investors knew about the dismissal until minutes before. The dismissal was justified by stating that Altman was not being transparent, that is, he had lied to the board.
Generally, resignation notices are boring and predictable documents. Full of platitudes that the person will “dedicate time to family” and things like that. In Altman’s case, the document is an atomic bomb. Blames the fired person for the dismissal with harsh words.
What would Altman have done to this? The most likely hypothesis so far is that there was an internal split in the council, which was won by the “trust and safety” wing. Sam wanted to move fast, implement new products without looking at the consequences. This came up against the fact that OpenAI has an unusual corporate structure. It is governed by a non-profit entity, which in turn controls a for-profit subsidiary. This is the one that has investors and generates money. I know this structure well. It is also applied by Mozilla, creator of the Firefox browser. For 6 years I was a member of Mozilla’s board and saw how different corporate dynamics are when there is a non-profit entity controlling the group’s main decisions.
The split was serious to the point that the chairman of the board also left the company, something little talked about, but revealing. The wing linked to caution prevailed and fired Sam. There are rumors that the new products launched on November 6th had security flaws, including the possibility of leaking user data. This would have led Microsoft itself, OpenAI’s main investor, to suspend the internal use of the company’s products. Another factor is that Altman’s sister made accusations against him. But this does not appear to have been the factor in his resignation (if it had been, the chairman of the board would not have also resigned).
The decision puts OpenAI in a state of uncertainty. Several team members, including scientists and developers, resigned in solidarity. Sam was replaced by Mira Murati, a brilliant 35-year-old Albanian engineer who likes to wear leather jackets and smile as she explains the possibilities of AI. Altman’s fall is also a victory for Elon Musk. When I met with Altman in Brazil in August, he made it clear that his relationship with Musk had deteriorated to the point where they were now enemies. Musk is laughing while Sam is experiencing the dawn of his sunset. There will still be a lot of water under the bridge. The birth pains of artificial intelligence continue.
It’s over Sam Altman as President of Open AI
Already Mira Murai as President of Open AI
It’s coming Expectations of what Microsoft will do from now on in this uncertain scenario
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