All over Silicon Valley, phones lit up on Friday with the same question: What the heck happened to Sam Altman? The sudden, mysterious ouster of Mr. Altman, the chief executive of OpenAI, by the company’s board sent shock waves through the tech world and set off a frenetic guessing game about what brought down one of the industry’s biggest stars. Employees, investors, and business partners learned of the move at the same time as the general public, as the company gave no other details beyond saying that Mr. Altman “was not consistently candid in his communications” with the board. An all-hands meeting for OpenAI employees on Friday afternoon didn’t reveal much more. Ilya Sutskever, the company’s chief scientist and a member of its board, defended the ouster. Mr. Altman appears to have been blindsided, despite betraying no hint that anything was amiss during a recent interview. His friend Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s co-founder and president, quit on Friday in solidarity. OpenAI’s fate also matters to the thousands of developers who build A.I. products on top of its language models. Lastly, Mr. Altman’s ouster will almost certainly fuel the culture war in the A.I. industry. Some version of this argument has played out among OpenAI’s staff for years. During the interview, Mr. Altman said he considered himself something of a centrist in the A.I. debate.
The Inside Story of Sam Altman’s Departure from OpenAI
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