AI news
November 21, 2023

OpenAI's Existential Crisis

Leadership shakeup and potential employee exodus threaten company's future.

Jim Clyde Monge
by 
Jim Clyde Monge

OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, is in a real mess right now. It’s like a real-life soap opera, full of twists, turns, and a whole lot of uncertainty.

In case you’re not updated on what happened, here’s a summary:

  • The OpenAI board kicked out Sam Altman as CEO.
  • Greg Brockman, OpenAI President, left the company in protest.
  • Mira Murati was appointed as interim CEO.
  • Mira Murati decided to side with Sam and left the CEO post just a day later.
  • Former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear is set to take the position as OpenAI’s new CEO.
  • Sam Altman and Greg Brockman joined Microsoft.
  • Ilya Sutskever, one of OpenAI’s board members, regrets his decision and wants Sam back.

Right now, Sam and Greg joining Microsoft is not a done deal yet. So there might still be a chance that they might come back to OpenAI. If not, it could be a disaster for OpenAI.

Employee Defections Loom

The future of OpenAI is in jeopardy after more than 700 of its 770 employees signed a letter on Monday saying they may leave the company for Microsoft if Sam Altman is not rehired. Take note that the list includes the names of Mira Murati and Ilya Sutskever, board members of OpenAI.

Employee’s letter to OpenAI’ Board of Directors
Employee’s letter to OpenAI’ Board of Directors

Also, according to reports, some employees from OpenAI had already applied to Google Deepmind, while Nvidia and Anthropic were also reportedly actively recruiting these members.

The Potential for Collapse

The loss of its CEO and president and the possibility of losing its employees have left the company in a state of flux.

Here are some factors I can think of:

  • Continued employee exodus: If the majority of the employees resign, it could be a real disaster for OpenAI.
  • Drastic changes in leadership: The new CEO, Emmett Shear has said in a tweet that he’s about to make significant governance changes (if necessary) in the next 30 days.
  • Loss of funding: Let’s be honest, investors are not happy.

OpenAI Could be Absorbed by Anthropic

The recent turmoil at OpenAI has led to speculation about the company’s future. One possibility is that OpenAI could be absorbed by its rival, Anthropic.

Anthropic and OpenAI
Anthropic and OpenAI

According to this news, OpenAI’s board of directors has approached Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei about a potential merger. The two companies are said to be in talks, but no deal has been finalized.

In case you didn’t know it yet, Anthropic is the company behind the ChatGPT rival, Claude AI.

Final Thoughts

The events at OpenAI and Microsoft underscore the volatile nature of the AI industry, where power dynamics, technological advances, and ethical considerations collide.

If you own a startup that relies on OpenAI’s technology, you’re at risk and should be thinking about a fallback plan.

I would suggest going for Anthropic, as it may make a move to merge with the remnants of OpenAI, and they seem to be more focused on AI safety. Plus, most of the founding staff of Anthropic used to work at OpenAI.