OpenAI makes it official: Sam Altman is back as CEO
Microsoft joins the board in non-voting role
OpenAI has made the return of Sam Altman as its CEO official.
A Wednesday post delivered the news, sharing two missives sent to OpenAI employees and shared with the world: one from Altman and the other from board chair Bret Taylor.
Both deliver news that the OpenAI board will henceforth include a non-voting observer from Microsoft.
Altman's letter thanked those who worked to secure his return, and states he has no ill will to those who opposed him. The restored CEO also thanked partners and users, and revealed no customers bailed during the org's paroxysm of governance weirdness.
The CEO explained OpenAI has "three immediate priorities" – the first of which is "Advancing our research plan and further investing in our full-stack safety efforts, which have always been critical to our work." Describing his brief exile as "a wonderfully focusing time," he set "Continuing to improve and deploy our products and serve our customers" as his second priority.
Appointing a new board that features "diverse perspectives," plus "improving our governance structure and overseeing an independent review of recent events" is third on his to-do list.
He'll be assisted in that task by CTO Mira Murati and Greg Brockman, who returns as president.
Bret Taylor, the former co-CEO of Salesforce who was drafted as board chair during OpenAI's days of turmoil, retains that post.
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He also got to write a letter of his own in which he professed to understand "the central role of OpenAI in the development and safety of these awe-inspiring new technologies."
Taylor offered a little more detail about the review of recent events, promising he will "further stabilize the OpenAI organization so that we can continue to serve our mission. This will include convening an independent committee of the board to oversee a review of the recent events."
That new board, however, is currently not complete – comprising only Taylor, former treasury secretary Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo, the CEO of question-and-answer site Quora.
There's no sign of co-founder Ilya Sutskever on the board either: he was instrumental in Altman's removal as chief exec and later said he regretted that move. Altman wrote of Sutskever: "We hope to continue our working relationship and are discussing how he can continue his work at OpenAI."
As for those on the panel, they are all white men, meaning the diversity promised for the OpenAI board is currently hard to see. As are details such as how many directors OpenAI plans to appoint, and what Altman means by "improving our governance structure."
Nor is there a reconciliation of Altman's intention to oversee the review, and Taylor's suggestion it will be run by an independent committee of the board – a seeming contradiction as boards are supposed to advise CEOs, not be overseen by them.
Whether the findings of that review will be publicly revealed is also not discussed in either missive. That's significant, as seemingly well-founded rumors have circulated that the old OpenAI board fired Altman for not disclosing risky AI research.
If OpenAI is as central to the future of AI and its safety as Taylor professes, transparency surely seems appropriate.
Perhaps Microsoft's observer will suggest that? ®