OpenAI’s Misalignment and Microsoft’s Gain

I have, as you might expect, authored several versions of this Article, both in my head and on the page, as the most extraordinary weekend of my career has unfolded. To briefly summarize:

  • On Friday, then-CEO Sam Altman was fired from OpenAI by the board that governs the non-profit; then-President Greg Brockman was removed from the board and subsequently resigned.
  • Over the weekend rumors surged that Altman was negotiating his return, only for OpenAI to hire former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear as CEO.
  • Finally, late Sunday night, Satya Nadella announced via tweet that Altman and Brockman, “together with colleagues”, would be joining Microsoft.

This is, quite obviously, a phenomenal outcome for Microsoft. The company already has a perpetual license to all OpenAI IP (short of artificial general intelligence), including source code and model weights; the question was whether it would have the talent to exploit that IP if OpenAI suffered the sort of talent drain that was threatened upon Altman and Brockman’s removal. Indeed they will, as a good portion of that talent seems likely to flow to Microsoft; you can make the case that Microsoft just acquired OpenAI for $0 and zero risk of an antitrust lawsuit.

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