Even the best-run companies have occasional leadership crises. But if you asked ChatGPT to come up with a blockbuster boardroom-bloodbath movie scenario, I doubt it would propose anything as extreme as this week’s events in its own San Francisco-based parent company, OpenAI.
Chief executive and co-founder Sam Altman was fired last week for failing to be ‘consistently candid’ with OpenAI’s board, though no one was prepared to say what he had not been candid about. By Monday he had a new job leading AI research at Microsoft, OpenAI’s 49 per cent shareholder. One inside source claimed 743 of OpenAI’s 770 staff had signed a letter supporting him and many of them would follow him to Microsoft. But late on Tuesday, Altman and his ally Greg Brockman, who had resigned in sympathy, were reinstated at OpenAI – which also announced a new board of directors.
Underlying this drama are fears that Altman was driving too fast towards ‘advanced general intelligence’ applications beyond human control. Or it may be about money, which, as the book of Ecclesiastes told us, ‘answers all things’. OpenAI is structured as a non-profit parent with profit-making arms; its value before the crisis was put at $86 billion, of which all the key staff were expecting slices.
Then again, this may just be a clash of egos. The new OpenAI board includes a brace of Silicon Valley chiefs and the economist Larry Summers, big egos all. To bring them to order but maintain the company’s sci-fi tone, I’d propose a chairman with intergalactic experience – Spock the half-Vulcan officer from Star Trek, who said of humans, ‘I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.’
Lucky inflation break
Over and over in this week’s debate around the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, we’ll hear government claims to have ‘halved inflation’ – from 10.7