Artificial intelligence may be well-known for generating human-like images out of whole cloth, but if the software has a public face it is Sam Altman’s.
The co-founder of OpenAI, which caused a sensation just a year ago with the introduction of ChatGPT, Altman has presented himself as the benevolent wizard behind the curtain of a technology that many say could upend entire industries and even mankind itself.
But on Friday it was the earnest Altman who was upended after OpenAI’s board, in a surprise move, stripped him of his CEO title and directorship. He is out.
Directors of the company, now worth about US$80 billion, cited a failure to be “consistently candid in his communications”.
Further details of what finally led to the ouster of Altman were not immediately clear Friday.
The company reassured staff that it would be fine without him, but the Silicon Valley superstar, who once ran the best-known start-up incubator YCombinator, or YC, leaves the company with a big hole to fill in its fundraising efforts – maintaining the software costs some very real money. It also takes talented engineers, who flocked to Altman.
Altman, 38, was plucky to the end of his run at OpenAI. He was seen mingling with attendees briefly at an AI conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, and the next day spoke on a panel with a top Meta executive at the ongoing APEC summit in San Francisco, while the board deliberated on his future.