Over the last year, Sam Altman led OpenAI to the adult table of the technology industry. Thanks to its hugely popular ChatGPT chatbot, the San Francisco start-up was at the center of an artificial intelligence boom, and Mr. Altman, OpenAI’s chief executive, had become one of the most recognizable people in tech.
But that success raised tensions inside the company. Ilya Sutskever, a respected A.I. researcher who co-founded OpenAI with Mr. Altman and nine other people, was increasingly worried that OpenAI’s technology could be dangerous and that Mr. Altman was not paying enough attention to that risk, according to three people familiar with his thinking. Mr. Sutskever, a member of the company’s board of directors, also objected to what he saw as his diminished role inside the company, according to two of the people.
That conflict between fast growth and A.I. safety came into focus on Friday afternoon, when Mr. Altman was pushed out of his job by four of OpenAI’s six board members, led by Mr. Sutskever. The move shocked OpenAI employees and the rest of the tech industry, including Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion in the company. Some industry insiders were saying the split was as significant as when Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985.
The ouster of Mr. Altman, 38, drew attention to a longtime rift in the A.I. community between people who believe A.I. is the biggest business opportunity in a generation and others who worry that moving too fast could be dangerous. And the ouster showed how a philosophical movement devoted to the fear of A.I. had become an unavoidable part of tech culture.
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