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OpenAI’s Sam Altman compares his ‘unbelievably painful’ firing to the sudden death of his dad

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OpenAI's Sam Altman compares his 'unbelievably painful' firing to the sudden death of his dad

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s recent firing saga is something straight out of a Silicon Valley drama. Comparing the shock to losing his dad, Altman opened up on Trevor Noah’s podcast about the whirlwind experience.

Picture this: Altman’s chilling in a Vegas hotel room, in town for the Grand Prix, when he gets the call that he’s out. “It felt like a dream,” he said, describing the moment as a fog of confusion and pain.

The firing hit him like a bolt from the blue. It was an out-of-the-blue jolt, eerily similar to the sudden loss of his father. “That was much worse, but there are echoes of that here,” Altman reflected.

In a twist fit for a movie, Altman’s smartphone blew up with messages within half an hour of the news, including a job offer from Microsoft.

His brief exit sent shockwaves through OpenAI, with a whopping 747 out of 770 employees threatening to bail and join him at Microsoft. People wanted to stick with Altman, no matter where he landed.

Initially, Altman wasn’t eyeing a comeback to OpenAI, trying to figure out what the heck was going on while still rooting for the company. But, in a stunning turn, he was back at OpenAI’s helm just days later.

“I’m still reeling, trying to piece it all together,” he admitted to Noah.

It’s been a year since OpenAI rolled out ChatGPT, and it’s been stirring the pot ever since. The uncertainty wasn’t just public; it resonated within OpenAI’s six-person board, too.

Rewind to 2018, when Elon Musk, one of OpenAI’s founders with Altman, tried to take the reins. Denied control, Musk left and has since critiqued OpenAI as straying from its non-profit roots and cozying up to Microsoft.

Recently, the Washington Post revealed that Altman’s firing was partly fueled by accusations from senior leaders of psychological abuse and chaos at the startup. The board initially claimed Altman’s firing was due to his lack of candor. But later, it seemed more like a clash over tech advances and safety concerns.

Altman, reflecting on the ordeal, admitted to misunderstandings with the board. “Learning from this is key,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter.

As for the board coup against him? It was reportedly led by OpenAI’s chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, supported by board members Helen Toner and Tasha McCauley. Greg Brockman, Altman’s ally, was also ousted.

Faced with pressure from Microsoft and potential mass staff exits, the board backpedaled. Now, they’ve got Bret Taylor as chairman, alongside Lawrence Summers and Adam D’Angelo.

The new board is on a hunt for six experts across tech, safety, and policy. But don’t expect OpenAI’s investors to snag a seat. Microsoft, meanwhile, is all in, investing over $10 billion and owning a 49% stake in the company.

From shock firing to a dramatic return, Altman’s story is a wild ride in the high-stakes world of AI.

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