The Brains behind Sam Altman’s Firing

A sneak peek into the background of the board that led the coup against Sam Altman.

Design by Nikhil Kumar

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The weekend was full of surprising updates from the tech community. On Friday night, Sam Altman was unexpectedly fired over Google Meet by the OpenAI board for not being “consistently candid in his communications”. Greg Brockman was also removed from the board and he eventually resigned.

Following the dismissals, several OpenAI researchers, including Jakub Pachocki, left. Mira Murati became interim CEO for a day, until OpenAI appointed Emmett Shear, the former CEO of Twitch, as the new CEO.

Now, Altman and Brockman have joined Microsoft to lead a new AI research team — all these events occurred in the past 48 hours.

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Meanwhile, the board of directors that ousted Altman has faced significant criticism for its decision, with Sutsveker being labelled as the mastermind behind it.

Let’s get to know the board members involved in removing Altman from the CEO position, which led to the sudden upheaval in the company.

Adam D’Angelo

Joining the OpenAI board in 2018, Adam D’Angelo, cofounder and chief executive officer of Quora and former Facebook CTO, has been working in AI and ML for a long time. Back in high school, he co-developed the Synapse Media Player with Mark Zuckerberg, using ML algorithms to predict song recommendations. D’Angelo has also advised and invested in Instagram before joining as an independent director at OpenAI. 

Under his leadership, Quora launched Poe, a generative AI chatbot platform in February 2023. It features diverse AI models such as ChatGPT, Sage, Claude-instant, Claude-instant-100k, and Claude+. Poe facilitates diverse chatbot personalities for users, enabling back-and-forth dialogues with AI.

Notably, Quora is actively developing an API to integrate AI developers’ models into Poe, expanding its accessibility and functionalities. Last month, the company also launched creator monetisation for Poe to generate revenue. 

Tasha McCauley

Tasha McCauley, a prominent robotics engineer and tech entrepreneur, has made significant contributions to the field of robotics and technology. Currently, she is the CEO of GeoSim Systems, developing virtual city models, and serves as a director at the Ten to the Ninth Plus Foundation. 

She was also the co-founder and CEO of Fellow Robots; and her work primarily revolved around advancing robotics in retail and various industries, focusing on practical applications.

McCauley, who also has a background in academic and research work, has been a faculty member at Singularity University, enhancing her expertise in AI and robotics. In 2023, she also joined RAND Corporation as an adjunct senior management scientist.

Helen Toner

Helen Toner is recognised as a key influencer in AI with a specific focus on policy and strategic development. She holds a significant position as the director of strategy and foundational research grants at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET).

In this role, Toner is responsible for guiding strategic initiatives and managing research grants, which plays a crucial role in shaping the policies and strategies around emerging technologies, particularly AI. She did her Master’s in security studies from the same university. Before her tenure at CSET, she was at the Open Philanthropy Project as a senior research analyst. She joined the OpenAI board in 2021. 

Ilya Sutskever

The story of Altman and Brockman can not be completed without mentioning Ilya Sutskever, cofounder and chief scientist at OpenAI, who is allegedly responsible for the dismissal of the duo. He is recognised as a leading figure in computer science with numerous citations and has consistently chosen research and innovation over lucrative job offers, believing firmly in the advancement of AI.

Before launching OpenAI in 2014, Sutsvekar worked at Google Brain for about three years. There, he was instrumental in developing methods for sequence modelling, improving machine translation, and working on projects like TensorFlow and AlphaGo, both of which have had substantial impacts on the AI field.

Sutskever also co-authored the pivotal paper ‘ImageNet Classification with Deep Convolutional Neural Networks’, a cornerstone in the deep learning revolution. His foundational work at Google, following the acquisition of DNNResearch which he co-founded, was crucial in advancing AI technologies.  

Early in his career, he gained recognition for his exceptional ability to derive conclusions quickly, a skill that impressed Geoffrey Hinton at the University of Toronto.

Shritama Saha
Shritama Saha is a technology journalist who is keen to learn about AI and analytics play. A graduate in mass communication, she is passionate to explore the influence of data science on fashion, drug development, films, and art.

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