Sam Altman’s New Order Doesn’t Include OpenAI’s Chief Scientist

Sam Altman’s New Order Doesn’t Include OpenAI’s Chief Scientist

Sam Altman officially returned as CEO of OpenAI Wednesday, bringing back his party which includes Greg Brockman as President, Mira Murati as CTO, and new board members. OpenAI’s co-founder, former chairman, and chief scientist, Ilya Sutskever, is not back yet, and his position at the company is yet to be determined.

“I love and respect Ilya, I think he’s a guiding light of the field and a gem of a human being,” said Sam Altman in a press release. “I harbor zero ill will towards him. While Ilya will no longer serve on the board, we hope to continue our working relationship and are discussing how he can continue his work at OpenAI.”

Ilya Sutskever was a leading member of the board that ousted Sam Altman, along with Tasha Mccauley and Helen Toner, and we still don’t know why Altman was fired in the first place. The new board will only have one returning member, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, who is joined by former Salesforce CEO Bret Taylor, and former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Sutskever lost his board seat for sure, but he’s also the one founder who didn’t return to his old position in this press release. Altman’s comments on his cofounder feel both warm and cold at the same time.

It’s still possible that Sutskever will return at some point, but why not now? Does Altman’s new order not work with Sutskever’s cautious approach to generative AI? Two senior researchers on Sutskever’s team, Jakub Pachocki and Szymon Sidor are back at OpenAI, however. According to The Information, these two researchers built the Q* model, a reported breakthrough for OpenAI that indicates artificial intelligence may soon have a limited ability to reason.

We also received added context from Toner about why Sam Altman was fired in a resignation letter she posted on X. Toner says the board was “not motivated by a desire to slow down OpenAI’s work,” despite speculation that the board may have fired Altman to slow progress on developing AGI. “Our decision was about the board’s ability to effectively supervise the company, which was our role and responsibility,” said Toner. It’s far from a direct answer.

OpenAI’s new chairman of the board, Bret Taylor, said Microsoft will have a non-voting observer seat, ensuring that Satya Nadella is never kept out of the loop on sudden CEO firings again. The new board will also bring on an independent committee to review “recent events,” which is press release language for “the company imploding and our board firing the CEO.” Lastly, Taylor said OpenAI is focused on enhancing the company’s governance structure. OpenAI has a unique governance structure that gives the board and its non-profit division a lot of power. That structure has always seemed to be a key part of OpenAI’s mission, to safely develop artificial general intelligence, but could be subject to change.

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