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The Panel Reacts: OpenAI Fires CEO Sam Altman
Altman is out, and our expert panel's reaction is in.
OpenAI fired CEO Sam Altman today in one of the most astonishing removals of a tech leader in decades.
The OpenAI board said Altman “was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” It replaced him with CTO Mira Murati.
This story is moving fast. OpenAI co-founder and president Greg Brockman announced his departure this evening. Altman was reportedly raising a VC fund at the time of his firing. Rumors are flying. And the competitive balance is in flux.
Moments like these are why Big Technology has The Panel, where we ask a group of technologists, analysts, and journalists to respond to news events with context, in real-time. The Panel is still growing, and we’ll kick it off tonight with thoughts from panelists from the Pragmatic Engineer, MIT Tech Review, and more.
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And now, let’s get into our first entry from The Panel!
This is the most shocking CEO firing in tech in the last 20 years. Altman’s arrival gave OpenAI the momentum it needed and ChatGPT was started under his leadership. Whatever happened, this is very bad news for OpenAI, OpenAI’s shareholders and employees. Will that $86 billion secondary offer happen now? I would be surprised.
—, author of The Pragmatic Engineer, who just wrote the first-ever exclusive deep dive into OpenAI’s engineering culture.
I won’t speculate on the why but it is certainly a shock - the most shocking tech CEO knifing I can recall. You don’t usually see boards doing something like this unless the business is in bad shape. Most are willing to tolerate all sorts of bad behavior as long as things are up and to the right, and OpenAI is a rocket. So whatever they decided he wasn’t candid about, it was presumably a very big deal.
— MIT Tech Review Editor-in-Chief, who just interviewed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
I’m watching whether this shocking move arose from ethical corner-cutting that just a few years ago would have been overlooked. The stakes with the tech industry are far higher now as it has risen as a top power structure. With great power comes great responsibility, scrutiny and ethical standards. The small caveat: I have no idea what happened.
—, author of The Rebooting
On Monday this week, I wrote about the OpenAI board of directors (which fired Altman). The piece focused on how the company's six-member nonprofit board will decide ‘when we’ve attained AGI.' The board consisted of three employees — CEO Sam Altman, chairman and president Greg Brockman, chief scientist Ilya Sutskever — as well as non-employees Adam D’Angelo, Tasha McCauley, and Helen Toner. With Altman gone and Brockman stepping down as chair, what does this mean for the board? And for decision-making around OpenAI's core mission, which is to build AGI that "benefits all humanity"?
—, Senior AI writer at Venturebeat
OpenAI built its products on now-commoditized technology, and it has to keep producing hits to stay relevant. With Amazon, Google, and others turning up the heat, OpenAI needed its top leaders onboard. Now it will be without Altman, who was best positioned to run the company given his experience as YCombinator CEO. Life gets much harder for OpenAI and its partners at Microsoft after this.
—, author of Big Technology
Live Analysis on CNBC
I stopped by CNBC this afternoon to discuss my perspective on the story:
Have a great weekend
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