Why Was Sam Altman Fired? Latest in OpenAI CEO Drama

Sam Altman has been sensationally fired by OpenAI, but why is the former ChatGPT boss out and who is the new CEO?

The tech world is still reeling from the shock departure of Sam Altman from OpenAI, after the former CEO and ChatGPT boss was sensationally fired by the artificial intelligence company last week. (Update 11/22, 4:49am ET: The latest news points to Sam Altman back as OpenAI CEO today alongside a new-look board. Our original story about Altman’s firing follows).

It’s an event that frankly no one saw coming, especially after Altman led OpenAI’s first developer conference and helped launch its latest product and language model, GPT-4 Turbo.

Over the weekend, the rumors were that the recently ousted Altman would make a swift and equally dramatic return to the OpenAI throne. That hasn’t transpired and the company has now appointed a new interim CEO, with Altman finding a new role at Microsoft. Read on to find out and why Sam Altman was fired and who OpenAI’s new CEO is.

What’s the Real Reason Sam Altman Was Fired?

Announcing Altman’s departure from the company, OpenAI’s board said that the decision was due to the former CEO failing to be “…consistently candid in his communications with the board”.

However, the real reason Sam Altman was fired may be a more deeply rooted ideological clash over AI ethics between the former CEO and his overlords on in the OpenAI boardroom.

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According to CNN and its correspondent Kara Swisher, who claims to have spoken to sources close to the OpenAI crisis, Altman’s strategy of aggressively pushing AI development was at odds with some board members, who preferred a more cautious approach.

Altman’s Ousting a “Coup” for OpenAI Researchers

Another report by The Verge sheds even more light on why Sam Altman was fired and points to serious tensions between OpenAI’s research and product arms.

The tech site says that one particular OpenAI board member, chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, was central to the firing of Sam Altman, citing “multiple sources.”

It goes on to suggest that the move represents something of a “coup” at the company and ties in with the theory that some at OpenAI feel the company is advancing products like ChatGPT too fast, at the expense of more thorough research and safety vetting.

However, Altman’s AI story is far from over. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, took to X earlier to state that Altman, along with former OpenAI Co-Founder Greg Brockman, who resigned in protest at Altman’s firing, would be leading a new Microsoft AI team.

Who is the New OpenAI CEO?

Chaos has reigned at OpenAI over the last few days, but the company finally appears to be drawing a line under the Altman era, despite the consequences of doing so.

According to The Information, OpenAI stands to potentially lose out on an $86 billion share sale due to current instability at the company.

The new OpenAI CEO has their work cut out for them steadying the ship and continuing to drive forward the company’s leading edge AI chatbot, ChatGPT, which was become virtually synonymous with artificial intelligence over the last 18 months.

Taking on this task, after a short tenure by Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Mira Murati in the hot seat over the weekend, is Emmett Shear. Shear is best known as the co-founder of Amazon-owned video streaming site Twitch .

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Written by:
James Laird is a technology journalist with 10+ years experience working on some of the world's biggest websites. These include TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and The Sun, as well as industry-specific titles such as ITProPortal. His particular areas of interest and expertise are cyber security, VPNs and general hardware.
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