Ex-OpenAI board members speak up: Altman’s reinstatement “bodes ill for the OpenAI experiment in self-governance”

Helen Toner and Tasha McCauley, OpenAI board members from 2021 to 2023 and from 2018 to 2023, respectively, are calling for state regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) companies since “self-governance cannot reliably withstand the pressure of profit incentives.”

The Economist published an op-ed co-authored by two former OpenAI board members. They seem to have joined OpenAI “cautiously optimistic” about the company’s attempt to self-govern. However, the fog has cleared, and they’re now calling for governments to assert themselves in the development of AI technology.

OpenAI, originally established as a non-profit, has attempted to stay that way while establishing a separate profit-seeking entity. The idea was to raise capital while the non-profit part of the organization stayed in charge.

“The stated purpose of this unusual structure was to protect the company’s ability to stick to its original mission, and the board’s mandate was to uphold that mission. It was unprecedented, but it seemed worth trying. Unfortunately, it didn’t work,” the op-ed reads.

The former board members go on to explain the drama at OpenAI when Sam Altman was dismissed only to be reinstated days later.

Toner and McCauley say they stand by the board’s decision to dismiss Altman.

“We also feel that developments since he returned to the company – including his reinstatement to the board and the departure of senior safety-focused talent – bode ill for the OpenAI experiment in self-governance,” the op-ed reads.

Recently, Ilya Sutskever, a scientist and one of the OpenAI board members who voted to remove Sam Altman as the company’s CEO last year, has left the company. A month ago, the company fired two key researchers who were working on AI safety for alleged leaking.