The world of artificial intelligence was rocked with a series of rapid leadership changes at OpenAI, beginning with the abrupt dismissal of co-founder and CEO Sam Altman. This upheaval, coinciding with the meteoric rise of ChatGPT, has sent ripples through the industry, signaling a period of intense transformation and uncertainty.
A Leadership Shake-Up
The board of OpenAI, on November 17th, made a shocking announcement regarding the immediate ouster of Sam Altman. The board cited a lack of candor in Altman's communications as the primary reason for his dismissal, hindering the board's oversight capabilities.
In the interim, Mira Murati, previously the chief technology officer, stepped in as CEO. However, this change was short-lived. The company's management saw another twist with the introduction of Emmett Shear, former Twitch boss, as the new interim CEO.
Shear's appointment was unveiled just hours after an internal revolt, where hundreds of OpenAI employees, including Murati and board member Ilya Sutskever, threatened to depart for Microsoft unless Altman was reinstated.
Today I got a call inviting me to consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to become the interim CEO of @OpenAI.
After consulting with my family and reflecting on it for just a few hours, I accepted. I had recently resigned from my role as CEO of Twitch due to the birth of my… — Emmett Shear (@eshear) November 20, 2023
The Rise of ChatGPT and Internal Discord
This leadership turmoil comes barely a year after the launch of ChatGPT.
The AI-driven tool rapidly gained popularity, becoming one of the fastest-growing applications in history and sparking an industry-wide race to develop generative AI technologies. Just a week before his dismissal, Altman reported at OpenAI’s first developer conference that ChatGPT had amassed over 100 million weekly users, with more than two million developers utilizing the company's APIs.
The reaction to these developments within OpenAI has been one of open criticism and discontent. Employees took to X (formerly Twitter) to express their frustrations, with technical staff member Brydon Eastman making a poignant statement about trust and transparency in a now-deleted post.
The Future Under Shear’s Leadership
Emmett Shear's ascension to the role of interim CEO marks the third leadership change for OpenAI in just a matter of days. His appointment, initially reported by The Information, was confirmed shortly after Microsoft announced its hiring of both Altman and Brockman to spearhead a new advanced AI research team.
In a post on X, Shear reflected on his unexpected appointment: “Today I got a call inviting me to consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to become the interim CEO of OpenAI. After consulting with my family and reflecting on it for just a few hours, I accepted”.