The pioneering artificial intelligence firm OpenAI has ejected its chief executive Sam Altman after claims that he was not honest with the board of directors.
It was an abrupt and cryptic departure for a man who, alongside his former colleague Elon Musk, has become a global spokesperson for the AI industry and the seismic change it has created.
The company will now be run by its former chief operating officer Mira Murati, with immediate effect.
”Mr Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities,” said OpenAI’s statement.
“The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”
The board itself added that it was “grateful for Sam’s many contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI”, and that it had “utmost confidence” in Ms Murati.
Mr Altman said on Twitter that he had ”loved his time at OpenAI” and “loved working with such talented people”, though he did not address the board’s allegations.
i loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people.
will have more to say about what’s next later.
— Sam Altman (@sama) November 17, 2023
Mr Altman, 38, was one of the founding members of OpenAI in 2015 and has been its main public face since at least 2018, when co-founder Elon Musk resigned from his board seat.
The release of its AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT last December, capable of simulating human conversations and writing with unprecedented realism, set off a new AI craze – and AI panic – in countless industries across the world.
The sensation led to Mr Altman testifying before the US Senate and criss-crossing the world to meet with government officials and participate in diplomatic summits.
Though originally created as a solely non-profit institution, OpenAI established a commercial arm in 2019, run by Mr Altman and controlled by a charitable parent foundation – a move that led some to accuse it of abandoning its principes.
It was the board of this non-profit parent group that ousted Mr Altman on Friday, though the exact reasons for its decision were not immediately clear.
The Independent has asked Mr Altman for comment.