The drama at OpenAI isn’t over yet. After the company’s board confirmed that Sam Altman would not return as the firm’s CEO, most of its employees said they would resign en masse if OpenAI didn’t reverse the decision.
In a letter to OpenAI’s board, first reported on by Wired and journalist Kara Swisher, more than 500 current OpenAI staffers said they would rather join Microsoft, an OpenAI investor that’s already hired Altman to lead a new AI research team, than stay at the ChatGPT creator.
The employees say that they’ll leave the company if the board doesn’t reinstate Altman and OpenAI’s former president, Greg Brockman, to their previous roles. The letter also suggests that the ousted leaders wanted the board to resign and that the staff agreed.
“We, the undersigned, may choose to resign from OpenAI and join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Sam Altman and Greg Brockman. Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join,” says the letter.
The co-signees also reject the idea that OpenAI was pushing ahead too quickly without concern for safety. “Our work on AI safety and governance shapes global norms,” they write in the letter.
It’s interesting that OpenAI’s chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, who was reportedly behind the push to oust Altman, also signed the letter. Moreover, Sutskever wrote on X that he regretted his participation in the board’s actions.
On Friday, OpenAI’s board unexpectedly removed Altman as the company’s CEO for, among other things, not being “consistently candid in his communications with the board.”
Over the weekend, frantic negotiations over Altman’s possible return still took place after several OpenAI employees expressed their support for him. But late on Sunday, the board decided to “firmly stand by” its decision. However, it now seems the techno-thriller may continue.
One thing is clear. If hundreds of OpenAI employees really do join Altman at Microsoft, the corporation will have managed to acquire one of the world’s most successful teams of AI developers without actually having to buy the company.
Besides, even if the goal of OpenAI’s board is to keep the firm’s generative AI products out of Altman’s hands, Microsoft has exclusive rights to use OpenAI’s models after pouring no less than $13 billion into the company – and Altman is now at Microsoft.
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