More than 500 current OpenAI staffers have threatened to resign from the company and join Microsoft in response to the hiring of ousted OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and former OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman to lead a new “advanced AI research team. The group, consisting of mostly technical staff, made their intentions clear in a letter to OpenAI’s board that was reported by Wired and journalist Kara Swisher. In the letter, the employees stated that “Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary should we choose to join.”
The letter expressed the employees’ dissatisfaction with the board’s decision not to reinstate Altman and Brockman and named an interim CEO. It is also important to note that the letter was written before the events of last night, suggesting it has been circulating since closer to Altman’s firing. Following the board’s decision, Altman and Brockman made their move to Microsoft, leaving the OpenAI board with the challenge of dealing with the fallout from a large portion of their workforce indicating their intent to leave for Microsoft.
The disgruntled employees accused the company’s board of jeopardizing their work and having “undermined our mission and company.” They also rejected the idea that OpenAI was pushing ahead too quickly without concern for safety, claiming that their work on AI safety and governance shapes global norms.
This move comes as Microsoft is seeking to strengthen its AI capabilities with the creation of a special “advanced AI research team,” housing a number of former OpenAI employees with Altman having been offered a CEO title to lead the division. This is a significant move for Microsoft, signaling its commitment to advancements in AI, beyond its usual strategy of acquisitions.
Altman’s hiring came just hours after negotiations with OpenAI’s board failed to bring him back as OpenAI CEO over the weekend. Instead, former Twitch CEO and co-founder Emmett Shear has been named interim CEO. It is expected that Shear will take over from Mira Murati, who was named interim OpenAI CEO following Altman’s shock firing on Friday. However, it now appears that Shear will be taking the reins at Microsoft alongside Altman and Brockman, as many OpenAI employees have indicated their intention to join the new advanced AI research team at Microsoft.
Microsoft’s new advanced AI research team, led by Altman and Brockman, comes just a week after the company announced it has built its own custom AI chip that can be used to train large language models and potentially avoid a costly reliance on Nvidia. This further emphasizes Microsoft’s commitment to innovation in the AI space.
Altman had been reportedly pitching a separate startup to build custom, Nvidia-rivaling AI tensor processing unit (TPU) chips to investors recently, according to The New York Times. These developments signify a significant shift in the AI landscape, with Microsoft and OpenAI making waves in the industry, potentially disrupting the current market dynamics.
OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, who reportedly led the push to remove Altman, expressed regrets about the weekend of chaos inside OpenAI and stated his commitment to reuniting the company. However, with the majority of the technical staff pledging to join the new advanced AI research team at Microsoft, the path to reconciling with OpenAI seems uncertain for Altman and Brockman.
It remains to be seen how OpenAI’s board will respond to the significant blow of potentially losing a large portion of its workforce to Microsoft and how this will impact the future direction and operations of OpenAI. As this story continues to unfold, it will undoubtedly shape the landscape of the AI industry and highlight the fierce competition among tech giants to lead in AI innovation and research.