Microsoft hires ex OpenAI CEO to head AI research lab, days after firing

A prompt hiring.

Tan Min-Wei | November 20, 2023, 09:27 PM


Microsoft is hiring two of OpenAI's founders Sam Altman and Greg Brockman to lead an artificial intelligence research lab.

This comes days after the Altman was fired as CEO of the non-profit organisation.

Play it again Sam

Both Altman and Brockman, as well as a group of unnamed colleagues, were named in a tweet by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Microsoft is one of OpenAI's most significant investors, having pledged over US$13 billion (S$17.4 billion) to the AI start-up since 2019.

Altman had been CEO of OpenAI until Friday Nov. 18, when he was fired from his position.

The four-person board of the company cited a lack of confidence in Altman, and while thanking him for his contributions, they said that OpenAI needed new leadership.

It's not clear why Altman was fired, although the Guardian reported rumours that Altman was working on a new venture while still at OpenAI.

This led to OpenAI president and co-founder, Brockman, to also quit the company.

Altman's other supporters refused to accept the turn of events, instead exerting pressure on the board to rehire Altman.

They engaged the company in talks that lasted over the weekend of Nov. 18 and 19, according to reports by The New York Times.

Altman himself confirmed his presence at OpenAI's headquarters, showing himself with a guest pass.

That's apparently the first time he had ever used one.

However, on Nov. 20, OpenAI announced that Altman would not be returning and that he would be replaced by former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear according to The Verge.

A lab of their own

Mere hours later, Nadella's tweet confirmed Altman's next position: heading an AI research lab with Brockman and an unnamed number of former colleagues, presumably loyalist from OpenAI.

Nadella also confirmed that it would continue to work with OpenAI, welcoming Shear as the new CEO.

Altman replied to the tweet: "The mission continues".

Golden boy

OpenAI, along with its ChatGPT 3 and 4 large language models captured the imagination of techies and investors alike when it showed in 2022, the potential of its LLM.

Microsoft has used its close connection with OpenAI to imbue many of its products with AI offerings, notably reviving the fortunes of its ailing search engine Bing by imbuing it with free access to ChatGPT in order to answer search queries.

Ever since then, it has been aiming to bring AI assistance to almost every commercial product it offers, from helping programmers in GitHub, to helping office workers write emails in Outlook.

Its competitors have scrambled to keep up, with Google's Bard offering not quite impressive in the same way as ChatGPT did, but with Google attempting to rapidly add features to keep up.

Microsoft has also begun to reveal its own custom AI chips, meant to allow the company to train AIs without relying on companies such as chipmaker Nvidia to provide it hardware, as reported by The Verge.

The hiring of Altman and friends means that Microsoft has brought modern AI's golden boy into the fold, and appears to have once again stolen a march on its competitors, and perhaps even its allies.

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Top image via Unsplash & Sam Altman/X