Sam Altman To Microsoft: Eight Quick Implications
What Altman's move to Microsoft means for OpenAI, Microsoft, the rest of the AI field, and AI safety. Plus, will he actually go?
Overnight, ex-OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and ex-OpenAI president Greg Brockman gave up their quest to return to OpenAI and agreed to join Microsoft.
The two executives will build “a new advanced AI research team” at Microsoft, according to its CEO Satya Nadella. Many of their former colleagues will likely follow.
The OpenAI board, meanwhile, replaced interim CEO Mira Murati with a new interim CEO, Emmett Shear, the former CEO of Twitch. And in a blink, the craziest weekend in recent tech memory ended. (Unless, somehow, Altman still returns to OpenAI — more below).
Here are eight thoughts about the implications:
Altman will head to Microsoft, and dozens (or more) of former OpenAI colleagues will come along. Brockman already announced GPT-4 lead Jakub Pachocki will join Microsoft, among others. Now, more than 500 of OpenAI’s 700 employees are threatening to leave as well. Whether it’s hundreds or dozens of defections, the outflow of talent will hamper OpenAI’s ability to function. It’s a different company as of this morning.
Welcome to the Era of Model Agnosticism
Many companies’ AI strategies rely on OpenAI. They built on GPT-4 and figured they could depend on it. The model may remain stable, but OpenAI’s corporate instability changes everything. Today, anyone building with OpenAI will ask how to make their products compatible with any model, including Anthropic or (eventually) Gemini. AI competition will heat up.
Microsoft Wins Big
Sam Altman now reports to Satya Nadella without a non-profit arm telling him what to do. That’s a big win for Microsoft. Altman can use all the Azure compute he wants to train his next model, and Microsoft can more seamlessly integrate that model into its products. “It's gonna take a while to re-train, but that's OK,” said NVIDIA sr. AI scientist Jim Fan. “Eventually, it will be much easier for MSFT to deeply integrate GPTs into Teams, Office, Windows, etc.”