Why OpenAI Fired Sam Altman — And What Happens Next in the AI World

Expect many, many changes. Time to revisit our timelines for everything

Alberto Romero


Edit Tuesday Nov 22nd: Sam Altman is back as OpenAI CEO. A couple of important details:

Changes to the non-profit board: The board was composed of six people before the firing: Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, Adam D’angelo, Helen Toner, and Tasha McCauley. Now it’s only three members.

Altman and Brockman are out as part of the agreement. Among the members who executed the coup, three are out: Sutskever, Toner, and McCauley. D’angelo stays. Two new members: Bret Taylor and Larry Summers.

The board will likely grow over time, including at least one seat for Microsoft to represent the company’s interests or provide it with some oversight so that there are no more surprises, as Satya Nadella told Kara Swisher on Monday.

Internal investigation: A settlement could only be reached because Altman agreed to an investigation to elucidate the reasons that led to his dismissal on Friday. The board had been divided for months before the ouster — it was not a sudden decision but a very premeditated one. It’s still unclear what was the inflection point or which factors weighted the most, but it seems to have been a compendium of many things, instead of one big reason.

I didn’t publish an article yesterday because I was busy following the most unexpected event of the year, if not the decade, in AI: The firing of OpenAI CEO, Sam Altman, by the company’s board.

It started with a rather cryptic and not very pleasant-sounding blog post from the company announcing a leadership transition. Here are the most revealing bits:

Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI. …

As a part of this transition, Greg Brockman will be stepping down as chairman of the board and will remain in his role at the company, reporting to the CEO.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter, Signal, and Slack channels were flooded with speculation as to the probable reasons for such an abrupt decision that was conveyed in a tone that, in…