Some OpenAI staff stayed up all night debating a course of action following the news that Altman would not be returning to OpenAI. Many employees were frustrated by the lack of communication regarding Altman’s firing. Dozens of employees seemed to signal their willingness to jump ship and join Altman last night by posting: “OpenAI is nothing without its people.” in X.
In their letter, OpenAI staff threaten to join Altman at Microsoft. “Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees in this new subsidiary should we decide to join,” they write.
The precise reason for Altman’s dismissal remains unclear, even to many within the company. “Despite many requests for specific facts for his allegations, he has never provided any written evidence,” the letter states in his message to the board.
In addition to calling for the resignation of the current board, which consists of Ilya Sutskever, Adam D’Angelo, Helen Toner and Tasha McCauley, the letter requests that two new independent lead board members, Bret Taylor and Will Hurd, be appointed. Taylor is a tech industry veteran with close ties to Altman; Hurd is a politician who previously served on the board of OpenAI.
The letter raises the very real possibility that OpenAI will lose almost all of its staff and that Microsoft will essentially acquire the entire company. OpenAI has around 770 employees in total, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The wild saga also highlights that of OpenAI unusual government structuregiving some nonprofit board members extraordinary power at the world’s most popular technology company.
The episode also reveals how divisive the race to develop artificial intelligence has become among many involved in developing the technology.
Altman’s efforts to raise money for OpenAI and turn its offerings into commercial products may have unsettled board members who saw it as their responsibility to ensure AI was developed safely.
OpenAI’s meteoric rise in the year since ChatGPT’s launch has been accompanied by growing conversations about the risks that increasingly advanced AI can pose.
The letter says:
To the OpenAI board of directors,
OpenAI is the world’s leading AI company. We, the employees of OpenAI, have developed the best models and taken the field to new frontiers. Our work on AI safety and governance shapes global standards. The products we build are used by millions of people around the world. Until now, the company we work for and love has never been in a stronger position.