In an interview with CNBC’s Jon Fortt today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that the governance structure of OpenAI needs to change after the AI company’s sudden firing of CEO Sam Altman. “At this point, I think it’s very clear that something has to change around the governance,” Nadella said. He added that Microsoft would have “a good dialogue with their board on that.”
Unlike traditional private company boards, OpenAI’s board consists mostly of outsiders and isn’t tasked with maximizing shareholder value. “[N]one of them hold equity in OpenAI,” notes The Verge. “Instead, their stated mission is to ensure the creation of ‘broadly beneficial’ artificial general intelligence, or AGI.” From the report: In his first press interview since Altman’s ouster, Nadella dismissed concerns of long-term damage at OpenAI and said that the critical artificial intelligence research continues as does the partnership with Microsoft. But his comments didn’t clear up confusion surrounding where Altman and fellow OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, who was the company’s chairman, will ultimately end up. Early Monday morning Nadella said that Altman, Brockman and their colleagues would join Microsoft as part of a new AI research group. That post followed news that ex-Twitch CEO Emmett Shear had been named OpenAI interim head as Altman looked to depart. Over the course of Monday, it became less evident that Altman and Brockman would actually be joining Microsoft.
Hundreds of OpenAI employees signed a letter to the company’s board demanding that they resign or else the staffers may choose to leave and join their former boss at Microsoft. Nadella said it’s the choice of OpenAI employees whether they stay in their current roles or move to Microsoft, adding that his company has what it needs to keep innovating on its own. “I’m open to both options,” he said. Nadella told Fortt that Microsoft respects OpenAI’s nonprofit roots and shares its belief that AI needs to be developed and rolled out in a safe manner. “We want to make sure that we’re dealing with not only the benefits of technology, but the unintended consequences of the technology from day one, as opposed to waiting for things to happen,” Nadella said. Stay tuned: Legendary tech journalist Kara Swisher is releasing a 30 minute interview with Nadella in which he says, among other things, that he felt he should have been informed earlier as a partner of OpenAI and that will change in the future. “Also lots of deets about new hire [Sam Altman], safety in AGI and even India’s loss to Australia in that cricket match,” says Swisher in a post on X.
Further reading: Some investors in OpenAI are considering suing the board. “Sources said investors are working with legal advisors to study their options,” reports Reuters. “Investors worry that they could lose hundreds of millions of dollars they invested in OpenAI, a crown jewel in some of their portfolios, with the potential collapse of the hottest startup in the rapidly growing generative AI sector.”