Advertise here with Carbon Ads

This site is made possible by member support. ❤️

Big thanks to Arcustech for hosting the site and offering amazing tech support.

When you buy through links on, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for supporting the site! home of fine hypertext products since 1998.

🍔  💀  📸  😭  🕳️  🤠  🎬  🥔

Meanwhile, 100s of OpenAI employees are threatening to quit and join Altman at Microsoft unless the remaining board members resign. Turns out, if you sell AI-idealistic people on bettering the world, they don’t want to wait to do so (and get rich in the bargain).

Discussion  15 comments

Jason KottkeMOD

IMO, the big mistake the OpenAI board made occurred months ago: they allowed the for-profit part of the company (you can read up on the company's structure here) to start steering the ship. And once the capitalists get involved, especially if they see their mission as benefitting all of humanity, they are going to want to go fast and hard and for the glory (and the associated riches). All this is just trying to put the genie back in the bottle, with predictable results.

Jason KottkeMOD

From Inside the Chaos at OpenAI by Charlie Warzel & Karen Hao (who is writing a book about OpenAI):

In 2019, OpenAI launched a subsidiary with a "capped profit" model that could raise money, attract top talent, and inevitably build commercial products. But the nonprofit board maintained total control. This corporate minutiae is central to the story of OpenAI's meteoric rise and Altman's shocking fall. Altman's dismissal by OpenAI's board on Friday was the culmination of a power struggle between the company's two ideological extremes — one group born from Silicon Valley techno optimism, energized by rapid commercialization; the other steeped in fears that AI represents an existential risk to humanity and must be controlled with extreme caution. For years, the two sides managed to coexist, with some bumps along the way.

This tenuous equilibrium broke one year ago almost to the day, according to current and former employees, thanks to the release of the very thing that brought OpenAI to global prominence: ChatGPT. From the outside, ChatGPT looked like one of the most successful product launches of all time. It grew faster than any other consumer app in history, and it seemed to single-handedly redefine how millions of people understood the threat — and promise — of automation. But it sent OpenAI in polar-opposite directions, widening and worsening the already present ideological rifts. ChatGPT supercharged the race to create products for profit as it simultaneously heaped unprecedented pressure on the company's infrastructure and on the employees focused on assessing and mitigating the technology's risks. This strained the already tense relationship between OpenAI's factions — which Altman referred to, in a 2019 staff email, as "tribes."

Alex S

100s is a little bit of an understatement, it's 550 of 700 employees (78%).

Also thank you Jason for allowing/trusting us to create our own fine hypertext comments.

Jason KottkeMOD

And includes the person who pushed Altman out (Ilya Sutskever) and the person who initially replaced him (Mira Murati).

Paolo Palombo

That's the part that really floors me. I can understand Murati - allegedly she took the acting position hoping to bring Altman back - but what the heck was Sutskever thinking?!

Reply in this thread

Jason KottkeMOD

Another interesting read on all this is Ben Thompson's OpenAI's Misalignment and Microsoft's Gain. Although, if I am reading him correctly, I disagree that OpenAI's corporate structure is fundamentally to blame. I think for-profit, skin-in-the-game structures are certainly great for going fast and competing hard, but that's not the only metric for business success. (Happy to be corrected if I misunderstood what he was getting at.)

Jason KottkeMOD

Robin Sloan:

This tech spectacle has been a tonic — a reminder that the unexpected CAN happen, and chaos STILL rules. That industry would be better off with a lot more organizational disruption of this kind; the stability & "stickiness" of the giants over the past ~decade has been a net negative for society, IMHO

Ramanan Sivaranjan

This feels like the wildest tech story in quite some time. Ilya Sutskever is tweeting about Altman's firing like it was a thing that happened without his direct involvement. The majority of the company is threatening to resign if the board doesn't resign first. Microsoft has hired Altman and company. I am looking forward to the Vanity Fair oral history of this weekend.

Damien Newman

Part of me wonders if by the end of the week Microsoft has announced it is buying OpenAI. I can't tell if that's because it is a smart move for MS to do that or if I just want more of this bizarre and chaotic drama all week and would be sad if it's all over now.

Damien Newman

From The Information:

Former GitHub Chief Nat Friedman Declined OpenAI Interim CEO Role
By Kate Clark · Monday, Nov. 20, 2023
Nat Friedman, the former CEO of Microsoft-owned GitHub and a prolific investor in artificial intelligence startups, was asked by an OpenAI board member to take over as the Interim CEO of OpenAI on Sunday but he declined the offer, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The refusal shows the challenges facing OpenAI’s board in finding a new leader following the board's Friday firing of OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman, which set off a string of senior resignations. Late Sunday, OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said Altman would not be reinstated, as some employees wanted, and that Emmett Shear, co-founder of Amazon-owned video streaming site Twitch, would take over as Interim CEO.

Jason KottkeMOD

The Verge: Sam Altman is still trying to return as OpenAI CEO.

Sam Altman's surprise move to Microsoft after his shock firing at OpenAI isn't a done deal. He and co-founder Greg Brockman are still willing to return to OpenAI if the remaining board members who fired him step aside, multiple sources tell The Verge.

One of my few quibbles with Succession was how quickly massive business deals and maneuvers happened on the show. This OpenAI/Microsoft stuff is giving that pace a run for its money.

Damien Newman

A small, well written section of today's email from Dave Pell of Nextdraft:

OpenAI Chat the Bed

For the past few years, you've been warned that AI could destroy humanity. Over the weekend, you were reminded that humans are perfectly capable of screwing things up themselves. In computer keyboard lingo, just hours after the OpenAI board hit Ctrl Altman Delete, investors sent in an elite Command Z team, but they failed to Command-S the leadership, causing Sam Altman to hit the ESC key, uploading himself to Redmond where Microsoft seems on the way to hitting Command-A, Command-C, and Command-V, basically copying and pasting all of OpenAI into their company, as more than 500 OpenAI employees have threatened to hit Command-Q and follow Altman to Microsoft. Does all of this chaos at big tech's hottest company seem confusing? Don't worry, even ChatGPT is responding with the shrug emoji. Meanwhile, it's been 72 hours since OpenAI’s implosion, and there's still no Netflix series. The era of peak TV is over.

To Jason's last comment, I did see a "You are not serious people" meme somewhere in reference to Friday's announcement.

MacRae Linton

The Effective Altruism angle to all of this has been my favorite part. Assuming that the reporting bears out that the central disagreement was about speed and safety (trying to put the genie back in the bottle as you said @kottke) I think it's very funny that the group of people who are convinced that an infinitely persuasive AI will destroy humanity managed to persuade no one that firing Sam Altman was a good idea and were completely unprepared for the consequences of their actions.

Jasper Nighthawk

Thank you for pointing this out, can hardly agree more that this is among the funniest parts of all this.

Reply in this thread

Damien Newman

From OpenAI tonight:

We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo.

We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this.

Hello! In order to leave a comment, you need to be a current member. If you'd like to sign up for a membership to support the site and join the conversation, you can explore your options here.

Existing members can sign in here. If you're a former member, you can renew your membership.

Note: If you are a member and tried to log in, it didn't work, and now you're stuck in a neverending login loop of death, try disabling any ad blockers or extensions that you have installed on your browser...sometimes they can interfere with the Memberful links. Still having trouble? Email me!