Sam Altman: What on earth is happening at OpenAI?


Picture a boardroom battle at a multi-billion-dollar company whose futuristic tech might either save or destroy the world.

Its chief executive, who has the ear of world leaders, was toppled as senior colleagues turned on him - only for the rest of the company to demand they should be fired.

No, that's not my pitch for a Netflix drama, that's been the past few days at OpenAI.

Tech journalists, enthusiasts, and investors have been binge-watching it all unfold - though opinions differ on whether it was a high-stakes thriller or a farce.

The battle at the top of OpenAI, the creator of the AI chatbot ChatGPT, began very suddenly on Friday when the board of directors announced that it was firing the co-founder and chief executive, Sam Altman.

In a blog post, the board accused Mr Altman of not being "consistently candid in his communications", and said they had "lost confidence" in his leadership.

There are only six people on that board - and two of them were Sam Altman and his co-founder Greg Brockman who quit after Mr Altman was dismissed.

So four people who knew Mr Altman and the business well reached a breaking point of such seriousness that they sprung into action immediately, blindsiding the entire tech community including, reportedly, their own investors.

Elon Musk - also an original co-founder at OpenAI - wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that he was "distraught".

Ilya Sutskever, the firm's chief scientist, was a member of that board and "would not take such drastic action unless he felt it was necessary", he wrote.

Mr Sutskever has now expressed his regret - and is one of the many signatories of a dynamite letter to the board of directors, calling for Mr. Altman and Mr Brockman to return and suggesting they may leave OpenAI if the men are not reinstated.