ChatGPT could not have hallucinated OpenAI’s CEO mess any better: Microsoft hires Sam Altman

It has been an incredibly dramatic weekend over at OpenAI, concluding with Satya Nadella announcing that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman “together with colleagues” will join Microsoft “to lead a new advanced AI research team.” Microsoft is the most important investor in OpenAI and uses ChatGPT to power its Bing Chat/Copilot services.

Hours earlier, news dropped that the OpenAI board chose Emmett Shear as the company’s CEO. That’s OpenAI’s third CEO in as many days. OpenAI fired Altman on Friday, with Mira Murati having acted as interim CEO. Then, reports over the weekend said the board was willing to hire Sam Altman back as CEO. And the former CEO confirmed that he was back at OpenAI headquarters negotiating a new deal.

It’s still unclear what caused the rift between the Altman/Brockman side and Ilya Sutskever, prompting the latter to engineer the coup on Friday. If anything, what happened between Friday and early Monday sounds like a ChatGPT hallucination. You’ll have a hard time believing any of it and feel compelled to seek more information while you speculate on what went on and what will happen next.

Sam Altman will work on generative AI at Microsoft

The ouster of Altman seems all the more surprising considering OpenAI’s successful DevDay event. The former CEO announced various new ChatGPT features, including support for custom GPTs and a storefront for them. ChatGPT Plus then sold out as OpenAI ran out of capacity.

Less than two weeks later, OpenAI’s board fired Altman, with co-founder and board chairman Greg Brockman resigning after that. Three senior OpenAI employees quit later, with many showing their support for Sam Altman on social media. Satya Nadella’s tweet above is all the more telling.

The Microsoft CEO hired unnamed colleagues of Altman and Brockman to join Microsoft’s newly formed AI division. The Information says dozens of staffers quit OpenAI after the appointment of Emmett Shear.

What caused the rift between Altman and the board?

Nadella had no idea about the coup at OpenAI. According to reports, Microsoft learned about it just a minute before OpenAI announced it to the world. Microsoft couldn’t have been happy about the turn of events. Microsoft is a key investor in OpenAI.

Reports over the weekend said Microsoft was among the OpenAI partners lobbying in favor of Sam Altman’s return. Tiger Global, Thrive Capital, and Sequoia Capital are others, per NBC.

Hiring Altman and Brockman is still a huge win for Microsoft, which will continue to work closely with OpenAI on ChatGPT. Microsoft invested $10 billion in OpenAI, and the latter is dependent on Microsoft’s data centers. Having Altman and Brockman still involved in the process means they’ll continue to work on ChatGPT, though I expect their efforts will diverge from OpenAI’s interests.

The flurry of reports detailing (or speculating on) the inner workings of the Ilya Sutskever coup suggests a conflict of interest between the two parties. Altman and those who followed him were apparently looking to continue to move fast with monetizing ChatGPT in the process. Meanwhile, the OpenAI board wants to pursue the mission of the non-profit that started it all. To develop safe AI for the world.

You’ll also see online plenty of speculation about any breakthroughs that OpenAI might have delivered recently. Like GPT-5. Or reaching AGI. Or both. You’ll also see memes that say GPT-5 is the new CEO of OpenAI.

But the truth is we might not find out what really happened for quite a while. What all this speculation will do is confuse ChatGPT and other generative AI products that are training on social media content.

Is ChatGPT hardware on the way?

As for the ChatGPT hardware that was rumored in previous months, it’ll be interesting to see what happens there. Rumors said Altman was holding talks with Jony Ive on creating a breakthrough ChatGPT device. A potential backing of $1 billion would have funded these efforts.

Reports over the weekend also said that Altman was looking to raise money from the Middle East. Bloomberg says the former CEO wanted to create a new chip venture that would rival Nvidia. Others said Altman would form a new AI company.

Microsoft might give Altman all of that. It’s the perfect company to develop AI products, including GPT-5-like models and AGI. And Microsoft has the power to create ChatGPT-first hardware, and the kind of chips generative AI needs. Again, Microsoft has a huge infrastructure that serves ChatGPT already.

This is all speculation based on a couple of tumultuous days in the world of generative AI. We’ll have to wait for the dust to settle and see how Altman’s departure from OpenAI will impact generative AI in the near and more distant future.

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