OpenAI's Sam Altman compares his firing to the sudden death of his dad

OpenAI’s Sam Altman compares his ‘unbelievably painful’ firing to the sudden death of his dad as he reveals new details about the shock termination phone call he received while in a Las Vegas hotel room

  • OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, recently reinstated after his sudden termination, likened the ‘unbelievably painful’ experience to the unexpected death of his dad 
  • Speaking to Trevor Noah, Altman recounted receiving the call firing him while he was in a Las Vegas hotel room for the Grand Prix
  • Altman described it as dreamlike and chaotic leaving him in a state of confusion while receiving dozens of messages including a job offer from Microsoft

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, who was recently sacked, and then rapidly re-hired has compared his ‘unbelievably painful’ firing to the sudden death of his father.

Speaking on Trevor Noah’s What Now? Podcast, Altman revealed how he was in a hotel room in Las Vegas for the Grand Prix when he received the phone call firing him.

‘It felt like a dream. I was confused. It was chaotic. It did not feel real. It was obviously…painful. But confusion was just the dominant emotion at that point. It was like I was just in a fog, in a haze.’ 

Altman said that his termination came as a complete shock and that he did not understand what was happening.

He said he felt his termination occurred in ‘this unprecedentedly, in my opinion, crazy way.’

Altman said that sudden nature of what happened was similar to when his father passed away.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, who was recently sacked, and then rapidly re-hired has compared his ‘unbelievably painful’ firing to the sudden death of his father.

Speaking on Trevor Noah ‘s What Now? Podcast , Altman revealed how he was in a hotel room in Las Vegas for the Grand Prix when he received the phone call firing him

‘The only comparable set of life experience I had – and that one was of course much worse – was when my dad died,’ Altman told the comedian, which he said was also ‘a very sudden thing.’

‘In that case, I felt like I had a little bit of time to just really feel it all, but then there was so much to do, it was so unexpected that I had to pick up the pieces of his life for a little while. 

‘And it wasn’t until like a week after that, that I really got a moment to just catch my breath and be like, holy s***, I can’t believe this happened. So that was much worse, but there’s echoes of that same thing here.’

Within half an hour of being told he was to leave the company, he began to receive a flood of messages, so much so that his smartphone stopped working and froze.

Altman noted how ‘everyone’ was calling, including Microsoft who then poached him.

The firing appeared to catch Altman off guard who did not elaborate as to what may have led to his departure

His brief departure sent shockwaves through the company leading to 747 out of 770 of the its employees threatening to quit and join Microsoft if Altman, 38, was not reinstated. 

He began hearing from people who said they wanted to continue to work with him, no matter where he ended up.

At that stage, returning to OpenAI was not in an option as he was still trying to forge a path where he was still supportive of OpenAI, while trying to figure out what was happening.

But then just days later, he made a stunning return to OpenAI as CEO.

‘I’m still a little bit in shock and a little bit just trying to pick up the pieces, you know. As I have time to sit and process this all, I’ll have a lot more feelings about it,’ Altman told Noah.

Sam Altman is CEO of OpenAI, the company known for creating the artificial intelligence chatbot called ChatGPT. OpenAI is reportedly developing a more powerful AI called Q*, which could be the reason he was fired, according to news reports

Founded by Altman and ten others in 2015, OpenAI rolled out ChatGPT a year ago – and its ability to mimic human writing has proved polarizing ever since.

Aside from sparking worry amongst the public, this uncertainty was apparently also felt within OpenAI’s six-person board.

Elon Musk founded OpenAI with Sam Altman, the company’s CEO, but in 2018 the billionaire attempted to take control of the start-up.

His request was rejected, forcing him to quit OpenAI and move on with his other projects.

Musk has since attacked the company and says the AI is ‘woke’ and deviates from OpenAI’s original non-profit mission.

‘OpenAI was created as an open source (which is why I named it ‘Open’ AI), non-profit company to serve as a counterweight to Google, but now it has become a closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft,’ Musk tweeted in February. 

On Friday, the Washington Post reported how several senior leaders approached the OpenAI board and accused Altman of being psychologically abusive and creating chaos at the startup, citing two people familiar with the board’s thinking.

Those complaints about Altman were a major factor in the board’s decision to fire him on November 17. 

Initially, OpenAI’s board said that Altman had been fired because ‘he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.’

Later reporting suggested that the board coup stemmed from a clash over technological advances, and a dispute between champions of fast innovation and a faction more concerned about safety.

The board coup against Altman was led by OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, seen above 

Sutskever led the charge to have Altman pulled – after successfully swaying fellow board members Tasha McCauley (left) and Helen Toner (right)

Five days of turmoil at OpenAI 

Friday: Reports emerged that Sam Altman had been fired, leading the tech tycoon to comment on X that it was ‘sorta like reading your own eulogy while you’re still alive.’

Jakob Pachocki and fellow cofounder Greg Brockman, were seemingly taken aback by the firing and both quit in protest of the alleged ambush late Friday night.

Saturday: There were efforts from execs to bring him back and a leaked memo to staff suggested the company was ‘optimistic’ about his possible return.

Sunday: Reports swirled that he was open to returning if there was a change of board and governance at the company.

Altman then threw cold water on the rumors, posting a snap of himself using an OpenAI guest-pass while visiting his old employer on X, and wrote: ‘first and last time i ever wear one of these.’ 

Monday: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Altman and OAI co-founder Greg Brockman would be joining the company to lead a new AI innovation team.

Former Twitch leader Emmett Shear has taken over as OpenAI’s interim chief executive.

Tuesday: After days of turmoil, Altman announced on X that he is to return to OpenAI. 

The co-founder will join a new board that includes former US treasury secretary Larry Summers, former co-CEO of Salesforce Bret Taylor and Adam D’Angelo, the only holdover for the previous administration. 

Days earlier, D’Angelo voted to oust Altman. ‘I love OpenAI, and everything I’ve done over the past few days has been in service of keeping this team and its mission together,’ Altman wrote on X.

His return saw one of the company’s founders, Illya Sutskever, as well as Helen Toner and Tasha McCauley leave.  

‘It is clear that there were real misunderstandings between me and members of the board,’ Altman posted on X after he was brought back to lead the company.

‘For my part, it is incredibly important to learn from this experience and apply those learnings as we move forward as a company,’ he added.

The new report is the first to suggest complaints from senior leaders about Altman, who is seen as enjoying fierce loyalty through the company’s ranks.

According to the Post, employees complained that Altman ‘had been psychologically abusive’ including allegations of him ‘pitting employees against each other in unhealthy ways’.

The outlet reported that the complaints resonated with board members who had their own issues with Altman, including several who believed he had lied to them as part of a campaign to remove Helen Toner from the board after she published a paper criticizing OpenAI. 

The board coup against Altman was led by OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, backed by the two independent directors: Toner and technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley.

Altman’s ally, OpenAI President Greg Brockman, was also removed from the board as part of the coup.

Facing pressure from Microsoft and the prospect of mass company-wide staff defections, the board relented and was reconstituted.

The board now consists of former Salesforce executive Bret Taylor as chairman, Lawrence Summers, and Adam D’Angelo, the CEO of Quora and the only holdover from the prior board.  

The new OpenAI board is on an active search for six new members with expertise in fields from technology to safety and policy. OpenAI investors are unlikely to get a seat on the non-profit board, sources told Reuters.

Microsoft has committed to invest over $10 billion into OpenAI and owns 49 percent of the company.

Source: Read Full Article