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Sam Altman to return as CEO of OpenAI. All but one of the old board members are gone (including both women). New board members are Bret Taylor (Facebook/Salesforce) and Larry Summers (economist). The money won, full steam ahead.

Discussion  7 comments

Jason KottkeMOD

Charlie Warzel, The Money Always Wins:

This is the triumph of a Bay Area operator and dealmaker over OpenAI's charter, which purports to place the betterment of humanity above profit and personality. It's a similar story for Microsoft and its CEO, Satya Nadella, who have invested billions in OpenAI and were reportedly blindsided by Altman's firing. Quickly, the company used its investment in OpenAI, much of which is reportedly in the form of computing power instead of cash, as leverage to reopen negotiations. Nadella also extended an offer for Altman and OpenAI President Greg Brockman to start a new AI-research group there, creating a win-win situation for the tech giant: Regardless of what happened to OpenAI, Microsoft would have kept the access it currently has to the company's data and intellectual property, or it could have subsumed the company altogether. Clearly, this was a favorable situation for Altman: He would either return to OpenAI or continue his work with Microsoft's full backing. Either way, he wouldn't be wearing the guest pass again.

From all of this, one thing seems abundantly clear: The money always wins.

Matthew Battles

It's interesting to note that the report now-erstwhile board member Helen Toner co-authored, to which Altman had taken exception, is about the "costly signals" of AI policymakers. "Policymakers can send credible signals of their intent by making pledges or committing to undertaking certain actions for which they will pay a price—political, reputational, or monetary—if they back down or fail to make good on their initial promise or threat," she and her co-authors write in their nut graf. "Talk is cheap, but inadvertent escalation is costly to all sides." Inadvertent or not, the board's escalation was costly—perhaps in the long run to us all.


It's a little on the business/wonky side, but yesterday the opening section of Matt Levine's daily column for Bloomberg was entitled "Who Controls OpenAI?" At the top of the section was pretty standard corp org chart graph #1, then next up was graph #2.

Whatever you think of the take, I thought it was a pretty amusing graphic. Annotating a regular-old-boring-org-chart to make the actual relationship clear...etc etc.

Tra H

I know Altman is the story here but I can't stop thinking about how many of the scientists/ engineers at OpenAI were willing to jump ship with him to MS. The whole guise of OpenAI is they have a structure that's supposed to protect them (and us) from moving too fast and breaking too many things but if the Board can't enforce that without being replaced and the workers believe in their leader more than that goal then where exactly does that leave us?

Tyler Zeruk

Larry Summers is a problem and I don’t know how this guy keeps getting into these positions of power.

MacRae Linton

Seriously where did he come from in all this

Reply in this thread

MacRae Linton

It's a satisfying story to pit the AI cautious against the money here but I really think the story is much more about how incompetent these people who paint themselves as noble guardians of humanity's future actually are. EA folks genuinely believe that AI may destroy the human race, like kill all humans on the planet. They literally say they are less worried about climate change because no matter how bad it is there will be some humans left to repopulate. These beliefs are not serious! Even Sam Altman subscribes to this stuff, this was fundamentally a disagreement about speed not destination.

The stuff that is actually going to suck about AI is its use to replace humans in the loop of decision making. Stuff like the recent report that it's being used to judge claims at health insurance companies. But I don't think that kind of misery is what the board was upset at Altman about.

I don't particularly care if Altman is running OpenAI or not, but I am very happy that the more extreme AI Doomer people made asses of themselves.

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