With Sam Altman at Microsoft, Who Leads OpenAI Now?
On November 20th, Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, announced that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, having parted ways with OpenAI, are set to join his company to head up a newly minted forefront AI research division. Does OpenAI now look back at their decision with a tinge of regret? We aim to unpack the remaining key figures within their ranks.
After Altman's prominent resignation, there was speculation about a potential reversal of his dismissal. Firstly, OpenAI investors, including their largest - Microsoft, were pushing for it. Secondly, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella was outraged by Sam’s firing. Nadella reached out to Altman, offering support for his future endeavors, whatever they might be. And as we now know, invited the former OpenAI CEO to be a part of the Microsoft team.
Altman himself, according to the grapevine, wasn't opposed to "turning back time" (a return to OpenAI - editor's note), but with a critical precondition: a review of the company's board. This points to internal top-tier disagreements being a likely catalyst for his exit. Altman’s shift to Microsoft underscores that a resolution remained elusive.
So, who does OpenAI count on now?
First, let’s consider Helen Toner, a Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology alumna, renowned for her exploration of AI's geopolitical impact, her counsel to policymakers, and her scrutiny of China's AI pursuits. Toner's record is seemingly benign, unless one is privy to her fervent advocacy for effective altruism — a philosophy also shared by notorious figures like Sam Bankman-Fried and Caroline Ellison of Alameda Research infamy.
Martin Shkreli of DL Software speculated on Toner's potential role in Altman's ouster:
“Who is Helen Toner, and why did she fire @sama? Insane effective altruist. Sam never should have trusted her...”, – he opined.
Corroborating his claim, Shkreli resurrected a nine-year-old clip where Helen, at the helm of Melbourne’s "Effective Altruism" chapter, elucidated her convictions at a TEDx gathering—a narrative reminiscent of the proclamations by Caroline and SBF, championing noble ends as justifiers of all means (a stance that has led to well-documented downfall).
Besides Toner, OpenAI's directorate includes Ilya Sutskever, its co-founder and Chief Scientist hailing from Russia. A potential clash with Sutskever could have been pivotal in Altman’s exit. Bloomberg sources suggested that the partners were at loggerheads regarding the route to render future developments both profitable and secure. Notably, Sutskever’s DNNresearch Inc., a deep neural network venture, was acquired by Google, post which he transitioned to Google Brain. As a founding pillar of OpenAI, alongside Altman, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and others, Sutskever's input has been fundamental. Musk's own ambitions to commercialize Chat GPT reportedly led to his OpenAI departure.
“If you value intelligence above all other human qualities, you’re gonna have a bad time”, – Ilya Sutskever commented in a post preceding Altman's dismissal.
Also in OpenAI's command is American entrepreneur Adam D'Angelo. Known for his tenure as Facebook's CTO and VP of Engineering until 2008, he made waves as the co-founder and CEO of Quora. Intriguingly, while overseeing OpenAI, D'Angelo has been nurturing his AI venture – Poe, a subscription-based chat incorporating ChatGPT, GPT-4, Claude, PaLM 2, and more. Yet, Adam isn't on OpenAI's payroll.
Tasha McCauley, CEO of GeoSim Systems and the spouse of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, also figures prominently. Despite her achievements, media narratives often overshadow her technological contributions with references to her marriage. The couple’s private life, including their wedding and children, often garners more limelight than McCauley’s professional strides, which include a $10 million net worth as of 2023.
Let's also mention Mira Murati, whom the OpenAI board appointed to temporarily fulfill Altman's duties. The 34-year-old Albanian native served as the company's CTO. Mira started her career at Goldman Sachs and spent three years at Tesla. At OpenAI, Murati led the development of ChatGPT, Dall-E (a text-to-image model), and Codex (another LLM from OpenAI), heading the research, product, and security teams.
Mira Murati, OpenAI Source: FT
Yet, Murati’s involvement in Altman’s departure seems unlikely. Her recent social media interactions indicate a warm rapport with Altman.
Furthermore, after a brief tenure in Altman’s role, she ceded her place to former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear, another proponent of effective altruism. The unfolding dynamic of altruism-driven leadership within OpenAI’s strategic sphere is intriguing.
The Verge notes that the OpenAI board’s mandate never included boosting the company’s stock value. Their collective mission? To pioneer “broadly applicable” general artificial intelligence or AGI.
In the backdrop of Altman's career developments, his Worldcoin project's WLD token saw significant volatility. Following news of his OpenAI exit, WLD plummeted by 20%, only to rebound by 13% amidst reports of his Microsoft alignment.
WLD Price Fluctuations Source: Coinmarketcap
To wrap up, Microsoft, in embracing OpenAI's leading thinkers, strikes a balance between both entities:
“We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI's new leadership team and working with them. And we’re extremely excited to share the news that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, together with colleagues, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team”, — Satya Nadella encapsulated.