I’ve been following the self-created chaos at OpenAI since Friday’s shocking announcement that the OpenAI board fired Sam Altman. I thought it was a made up headline at first, probably AI generated. My son asked me what I thought would happen and there were three paths I felt were likely.
- Every venture firm in Silicon Valley would be offering blank checks to Altman to create a new AI company not limited by the non-profit aspects of OpenAI.
- Satya Nadella at Microsoft would offer Altman to join Microsoft and lead all things AI with an unlimited investment budget.
- OpenAI would hire Altman back because they can’t move forward without him.
On Sunday night Nadella announced Altman was joining Microsoft, along with others. Option 2 seems to be the choice.
However, now we know that Altman hasn’t signed any agreement with Microsoft. We also know that 700 of 770 employees at OpenAI have requested the board to resign and for Altman to return.
The OpenAI board seems to be fairly clueless here. With the firing of Altman, they effectively pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall and broke OpenAI into pieces. I suspect that right now Nadella and Altman are the ones trying to figure out how to put it back together again. And I suspect there is only one real option:
Prediction: Microsoft will acquire OpenAI.
- Altman can’t be two places1.
- Microsoft is a big investor and partner in OpenAI.
- There would be collateral damage to letting OpenAI fail.
In the end Nadella wins in every dimension here. He ends up being the adult in the room putting Humpty Dumpty back together. Altman continues as the visionary AI leader he is. OpenAI remains as a strongly recognized brand. The OpenAI board is dismissed and noted for smashing the bottle after they captured lightning in it.2
Yes Jack Dorsey led Square and Twitter and Elon Musk leads multiple companies. I’m doubtful Altman ends with two roles, leading OpenAI and at Microsoft? Seems unlikely but is possible. ↩︎
OpenAI’s rather unique governance structure with a non-profit at the heart of it makes this more complicated, but I don’t think impossible. ↩︎