Microsoft benefits from the chaos at OpenAI
Until recently, the ChatGPT inventor OpenAI appeared to be the clear frontrunner in the artificial intelligence race. But after boss Sam Altman was fired, OpenAI is currently dismantling itself. This could shift the balance in the entire AI industry.
A weekend of chaos for the ChatGPT developer OpenAI has catapulted Microsoft far ahead in the artificial intelligence race. The software giant grabs the ousted OpenAI boss Sam Altman and other employees of the start-up. This means that Microsoft not only has continued access to OpenAI’s technology as a major investor – but also a large proportion of its inventors in-house. Hundreds of employees could move to Microsoft.
Altman and other ex-OpenAI employees will form a new research team at Microsoft, Microsoft boss Satya Nadella announced on Monday. According to media reports, he tried unsuccessfully at the weekend to get Altman, who was surprisingly ousted on Friday, to return to the top position at OpenAI.
Huge AI hype
Microsoft is working to provide Altman and Co. with all the necessary resources as quickly as possible, emphasized Nadella. Above all, this is likely to be a huge amount of computing power that modern AI models need. Microsoft has tons of them – which was also a central reason why Altman, as head of OpenAI, brought the software giant on board as an investor. In return, Microsoft was given the opportunity to incorporate OpenAI technology such as ChatGPT into its products such as Office, which can change everyday office life.
The chatbot ChatGPT, which can formulate sentences at the linguistic level of a human, sparked a huge AI hype around a year ago. Tech heavyweights like Google and the Facebook group Meta rushed to release competing products. Until Friday, OpenAI appeared to be a clear pioneer, setting the pace – and Microsoft was dependent on the company’s developments.
Revolt at OpenAI
Now the software giant has leading minds in the industry under its own roof who can bring their knowledge and develop their own AI models. Microsoft’s wide range of products provides tons of data to learn from. At the same time, the group also has so many customers that the use of the technology can have a major effect.
At OpenAI, the top position was filled for the second time in three days. The interim boss is now Emmett Shear, long-time boss of the gaming-focused streaming platform Twitch. The previous head of technology Mira Murati, who also took interim leadership of OpenAI on Friday, is said to have sided with Altman in the meantime.
On Monday night, Murati and dozens of other company employees wrote verbatim that OpenAI is nothing without its employees. It seemed like a revolt. The financial service Bloomberg, among others, later reported that around 500 of OpenAI’s 770 employees had signed a letter in which they called for the board of directors to be replaced quickly. They also emphasized that Microsoft had guaranteed that there would be jobs for all of them at the company.
According to media reports, a dispute over direction at OpenAI led to Altman’s departure. Some leading figures, such as technology chief Ilya Sutskever, were of the opinion that Altman wanted to bring the software with artificial intelligence to market too quickly and with an approach that was too commercial. They got the majority of the board of directors on their side. On Monday, Sutskever also wrote that he regretted that he had taken part in the supervisory board’s actions and wanted to do everything possible to reunify OpenAI. “I never intended to harm OpenAI.”
What’s next for OpenAI?
OpenAI was founded in 2015 as a non-profit organization with the mission to develop artificial intelligence in the interests of everyone. However, when it became clear that donations would not raise the necessary billions in investments, a for-profit company was formed with Altman at the helm. Among other things, he brought Microsoft on board as an investor, thereby securing OpenAI’s access to the necessary computing power.
However, the conflict between the two approaches became ever deeper. Now it is effectively leading to the split of OpenAI – with unclear prospects for the remaining company after the departure of leading employees. Altman will be joined at Microsoft by co-founder Greg Brockman, among others.
As of Monday, there was no official information about exactly why Altman lost the top job. The board said Friday only that it had lost confidence in Altman because he had not been honest in his communications with the board. That’s an unusually harsh wording for such press releases. After his appointment, the new interim boss Shear simply wrote that the trigger was not concrete differences about the safe pace of the introduction of AI software, but “completely different” reasons.