Why did OpenAI fire and then rehire Sam Altman?

The businessman's departure may have been related to the discovery of an AI that could "threaten humanity."

Sam Altman was reinstated as CEO of OpenAI on Tuesday night, just five days after being fired by the company's board of directors. The surprising news not only brings back Altman but also marks a series of significant changes to the board of directors of the pioneering artificial intelligence company.

The company's official statement reveals that Altman will return as CEO, and Bret Taylor, former co-CEO of Salesforce, will chair the board. In addition, the board will undergo additional changes with the addition of new prominent figures, including Lawrence Summers and Adam D'Angelo, CEO of Quora.

Although the exact details of the deal are still being finalized, this development ends days of uncertainty and turmoil in the artificial intelligence industry, marked by internal negotiations over OpenAI's future leadership and management of the company.

Altman's dismissal

Altman's abrupt ouster was initially blamed on an alleged lack of transparency. Still, sources close to the situation told Reuters that the main factor was fundamental differences between Altman and the original board over the company's strategic direction.

According to the report, the original board advocated a cautious approach, while Altman hoped to enter the market more quickly. Tension between the parties increased after several researchers sent a letter to the board warning of the discovery of an AI that "could threaten humanity."

After Altman's firing was announced, Microsoft hired him to lead a new AI research team. However, shortly afterward, a revolt broke out among OpenAI employees, who threatened to move to Microsoft if the board did not resign and reinstate Altman.

A project called Q*

A Reuters report notes that the creator of ChatGPT improved a project called Q*, which some think could be a significant advance toward superintelligence. This project would be part of OpenAI's quest to achieve artificial general intelligence (AGI), which integrates AI systems that could be smarter than humans.

Altman returns with enthusiasm

Sam Altman expressed his excitement about returning via social media, highlighting OpenAI's strong partnership with Microsoft, the company's largest financial backer.

"With the new board and with Satya's (CEO of Microsoft) support, I'm looking forward to returning to OpenAI, and building on our strong partnership," he said.

Satya Nadella also released a statement applauding OpenAI's move and confirming the partnership with Sam to ensure "OAI continues to thrive and build on its mission."