The ongoing Sam Altman-OpenAI saga just got a new twist. Soon after it was announced that Altman (alongside now-former OpenAI board member Greg Brockman) will be joining Microsoft’s AI innovation division, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hinted in a couple of interviews, that he was open to Altman returning to OpenAI.
In an interview with CNBC and Bloomberg TV, Satya Nadella hinted at the complexity of the situation, expressing openness to multiple scenarios regarding Sam Altman. When queried about Altman’s potential return to OpenAI despite the earlier announcement of joining Microsoft’s AI innovation division, Nadella stated, “I’m open to both options.”
Despite the turmoil, Nadella reiterated Microsoft’s commitment to OpenAI and Sam Altman, irrespective of the ongoing flux. Microsoft’s explicit partnership with OpenAI has been a strategic move, a nearly $13Bn one at that, and Nadella emphasized the company’s desire to maintain this collaboration. However, he acknowledged the dependency on OpenAI’s workforce either staying with the organization or transitioning to Microsoft.
“Look, that is for the OpenAI board and management and the employees to choose,” Nadella spoke at the interview. “We chose to explicitly partner with OpenAI and we want to continue to do so, and obviously, that depends on the people of OpenAI staying there or coming to Microsoft.” “Obviously, we want Sam and Greg to have a fantastic home if they’re not going to be in OpenAI,” he added.
Earlier today, The Verge reported that there has been apparent realisation at OpenAI’s thrid co-founder Ilya Sutskever’s end, and now only two of the remaining board members need to flip the vote to bring back Altman. Sutskever — chief scientist at OpenAI — had a change of heart after hundreds of company employees threatened a mass resignation if Altman isn’t brought back. When the brightest of AI scientists threaten to depart from what is arguably the hottest tech commodity in place, it is bound to shake some trees.
Triggered by the abrupt firing of its CEO, OpenAI went through a massive upheaval, which sent shockwaves through the tech industry and garnered attention from investors and industry experts alike. In a nutshell, the firing of Sam Altman has left OpenAI in disarray and the repercussions were swift, with OpenAI’s president, Greg Brockman, resigning, and a significant portion of the workforce threatening to quit in solidarity with Altman. The chaos prompted OpenAI to appoint an interim CEO, Mira Murati, followed by the surprising announcement of Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear taking on the role.
At the same time, over 700 OpenAI employees signed a letter demanding the resignation of the current board and the reinstatement of Sam Altman. And if things were not complicated enough, the situation took another turn with reports suggesting that Sam Altman might consider returning to OpenAI while the board at OpenAI would resign (that did not happen, and the board missed the deadline). And now, Microsoft, a major stakeholder in OpenAI with a $13 billion investment, has found itself at the center of the storm. Nadella added that “something has to change around the governance” of OpenAI, especially since said governance led to the removal of the man whose leadership saw OpenAI reach new heights.