Greg Bensinger reports. Edited by Diane Craft
By ousting CEO Sam Altman, ChatGPT loses its top fundraising campaign
by artyscount ·
Nov 17 (Reuters) – Artificial intelligence may be known for generating human-like images out of whole cloth, but if software has a public face it is Sam Altman’s software.
The co-founder of OpenAI, which made a splash just a year ago with the introduction of ChatGPT, Altman cast himself as the benevolent wizard behind the curtain of a technology that many say could upend entire industries, and even humanity itself.
But on Friday, it was the earnest Altman who was upended after OpenAI’s board, in a surprise move, stripped him of his CEO title and management. He’s outside.
Directors of the company, now worth about $80 billion, cited their failure to be “consistently honest in their communications.”
More details about what ultimately led to Altman’s ouster were not immediately clear.
The company has reassured employees that things will be fine without him, but the Silicon Valley star, who once ran the most famous startup incubator YCombinator, or YC, leaves the company with a big hole to fill in fundraising efforts: Maintaining the software costs some money. Very real money. It also required talented engineers who flocked to Altman.
Altman, 38, was fearless until the end of his career at OpenAI. He was seen briefly mingling with attendees at an artificial intelligence conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, and the next day he spoke on a panel with a senior Meta executive at the ongoing APEC summit in San Francisco, while the board deliberated on its future.
In a post on Elon Musk’s AI competitor X, on Friday he said of OpenAI: “I loved working with these talented people. I’ll have more to say about what comes next.”
Altman is credited almost single-handedly with convincing Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to commit $10 billion to the company and leading the company’s bidding transactions this year that nearly tripled the valuation from $29 billion to more than $80 billion.
His aura has also helped attract AI engineering talent in what may be the most competitive market in tech circles in years. He has successfully recruited Google, Microsoft and other well-known tech giants with more guaranteed pay packages, promising to let them get in on the ground floor of world-changing technology.
Since then, this technology has raised concerns about doomsday scenarios, where software takes over the world, steals intellectual property with impunity, and makes secondary education a hotbed of cheating or simply unnecessary; But Altman said at an event on Thursday that there would be no need for “strict regulation” for some time.
“At some point, when the model is able to achieve the same equivalent production for an entire company, then for an entire country, then for the whole world,” such rules would be useful, he said.
Altman grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended Stanford University for one year, marking a tradition among tech giants of dropping out before earning their degrees. In addition to his efforts with OpenAI, he created a cryptocurrency company this year that scans iris for verification.
Altman’s successful ethos likely played well among ambitious engineers who were tired of working hard at big tech companies.
“As long as you’re right, being misunderstood by most people is a strength, not a weakness,” Altman wrote in a blog post three years ago. “You and a small group of rebels are getting the space to solve an important problem that might otherwise go unsolved.”
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Greg Bensinger joined Reuters as a technology correspondent in 2022 to focus on the world’s largest technology companies. He was previously a member of the editorial board of The New York Times and a technology correspondent for The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He also worked for Bloomberg News writing about the automotive and telecommunications industries. He studied English literature at the University of Virginia and graduated in journalism at Columbia University. Greg lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.
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