Unless you were somewhere remote without internet or news the past few days, then you would already be well aware of the OpenAI drama in which the board fired CEO Sam Altman, and president Greg Brockman lost his board seat (but offered to keep his employment in the company).
Some senior researchers quit, and OpenAI employees 747 strong (out of 770 total workforce) signed a letter stating Sam Altman should return, or they would quit. To make matters worse, Microsoft (OpenAI’s biggest investor) wasn’t told of the news until minutes prior to the public being told.
Rather than recap everything, Techcrunch did a great write-up here.
Most of this happened over the course of a weekend. For the most part, coverage has been favourable of Sam Altman, as the board keeps quiet and still has not issued a reason for why Sam Altman was fired.
As the story develops and negotiations continue between Sam and the board, we are entering a new phase of the saga. Maybe in the last day or two, I’ve noticed an increase in negative sentiment towards Sam Altman.
One of the most prominent is a letter from former OpenAI employees that alleges deceit and manipulation from Sam Altman, addressed to the OpenAI board but oddly sent to Elon Musk, of all people who has been very vocally opposed to OpenAI (a company he helped start) and Sam Altman.
Of course, Elon had to post about it on X:
The link appears to have since been removed. The letter is signed, “Sincerely, Concerned Former OpenAI Employees” – allegedly, none of these former employees were willing to put names on the letter. This means anyone could have written this letter, even Elon Musk himself (who has a bit of a vendetta against Sam Altman and OpenAI).
One of the biggest issues with this alleged open letter is it doesn’t detail specifics until halfway through. And even then, the details lack detail, to the point where it feels like ChatGPT wrote this letter.
If I am being honest here, if this letter was from ex-OpenAI employees, they sound like a bunch of babies who couldn’t handle the pressures of working in a startup, and they’re upset they didn’t get to profit from the post-ChatGPT success OAI had. If you’ve ever worked in an early-stage startup, you know it isn’t easy. It’s gruelling and stressful; people are charged up and angsty, and things can feel hostile, and niceties can be rare. It’s just how it is when things are moving rapidly, and it’s fight or die.
The irony is that Elon Musk himself is no stranger to leaving a trail of disgruntled employees in his wake. If the alleged things in his letter were grounds for investigation or being fired, Elon Musk would have been fired at least ten times over.
If you read the language and tone in the letter, it sounds like inexperienced children and not adults wrote it. So, if this letter is authentic, maybe OpenAI made the right move by firing them. Lines in the letter, “driven by their insatiable pursuit of achieving artificial general intelligence (AGI)” and “those who remain at OpenAI continue to blindly follow their leadership, even at significant personal cost” is not how a professional adult speaks.
Ultimately, we should trust nothing and scrutinise everything. This is a PR war just as much as a corporate war. Public opinion was very much in Sam’s court, and we know OpenAI and Sam have some enemies, most notably Elon Musk, who stands to benefit from the chaos.