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Slaughtering Undone, Sam Altman Resumes Chapter

Image credit - TechCrunch

Slaughtering Undone, Sam Altman Resumes Chapter

Those who have been following the Sam Altman saga must have been screaming “WHY?!” when news about his termination hit the headlines. My overwhelming sense of curiosity had a generous serving of conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, the spotlight was cast on accountability, and could only get juicier.

One glaring thing was its uncanny resemblance to Steve Job’s story; forced out of the company he founded. Being utterly disappointed as he should be, he minded his own business till the successor, Gil Amelio was proven beyond reasonable doubt he was not cut out for the job. Jobs was rehired by Apple after a massive stock plunge under Amelio’s leadership.

Now that Sam Altman is back in OpenAI, along with a new board installed, it is clear that the biggest winners are Microsoft and Altman. Microsoft takes the crown for its massive US$13 billion pumped into OpenAI, though this investment does not give Microsoft any control in the firm. Altman’s return is the biggest humiliation / doubt to the board that ousted him — leadership quality.

The Messy Aftermaths

One could not disagree with Microsoft’s move to jump in offering roles to Altman’s supporters. After all, this involves sourcing for another 700 or more new hires for the company. This essentially spells “game over” just for the time frame and resources needed to complete the recruitment.

Another thing to note is the board’s earlier allegations of Altman’s management which the former lost faith in and led to the firing had their strategy backfired. The board’s ambiguous explanation was no explanation given more than 90% were willing to exit OpenAI with Altman cast more doubts on transparency albeit within the board.

Taking it a step further, the team at OpenAI has the right to know why Altman was removed – accountability. Yet, the board’s approach was to be ambiguous which led to almost a mass exodus.

Employees deserve accountability as well, especially if alarm bells are bursting ear drums. The board’s hollow answer just does not cut it, just because the golden word “investigation” was missing. It is glaring the approach to withhold what transpired was preceded by something better left unsaid.

And The Wounded

Ironically, the newly installed board does not have someone who earlier preached about AI safety. This person is none other than Helen Toner, who was a board member and former Director of Strategy for Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology for nearly five years according to CNBC.

Image credit – Daily Mail

Toner famously told the Journal of Political Risk that, “Building AI systems that are safe, reliable, fair, and interpretable is an enormous open problem… Organisations building and deploying AI will also have to recognise that beating their competitors to market— or to the battlefield — is to no avail if the systems they’re fielding are buggy, hackable, or unpredictable.”

It was widely reported Altman spoke to Toner about a paper she co-wrote for Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, where she is a Director of Strategy, as it seemed to criticise the company’s safety approach and favouring rival Anthropic, according to The New York Times. Deeply ruffled, Toner allegedly set the motion running to get a hurdle out of the way.

Of course, everything listed here are not backed by concrete evidence but from a variety of reports. That said, this will be a hot topic in the next couple of weeks.

Yet, nobody gave any attention to Emmett Shear — former Twitch CEO who was announced to be the interim CEO after Altman’s exit. He enjoyed a few glorious days but nothing has been said about what is next for him after Altman’s return.


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