Sam Altman, boss of OpenAI, returned to the board of directors of the company he co-founded on Friday March 8, more than four months after a major governance crisis within the publisher of the leading software program. generative artificial intelligence (AI), ChatGPT. The thirty-year-old was abruptly fired in mid-November by the former board, then rehired a few days later, following an outcry from executives and the overwhelming majority of OpenAI employees.

Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI, supported Sam Altman and obtained an observer seat on the board after the dismissal of members critical of the boss. In a press release published Friday, OpenAI announced the return of Sam Altman to the board and the arrival of three new members, Sue Desmond-Hellmann, former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Nicole Seligman, a former president of Sony and Fiji Simo, the head of Instacart and former director of Facebook’s mobile application.

WilmerHale, an independent firm responsible for investigating this crisis, considered that “Sam Altman’s conduct did not justify his dismissal,” according to another OpenAI press release on Friday. The firm “observed a breakdown in trust between the former board of directors and Mr. Altman, which precipitated the events of November 17,” details the company. The former board hoped to “alleviate internal management problems and did not anticipate that his actions would destabilize the company,” according to WilmerHale lawyers. They further believe that their decision “was not driven by concerns about product safety or security, the pace of development, OpenAI’s finances, or its statements to investors, customers, or business partners” – as much reasons mentioned in the American press after the crisis.

The Californian start-up highlighted the experience of the three new members “in leading international organizations and managing complex regulatory environments, particularly in the areas of technology”. “Their experience and leadership will enable the Board to oversee the growth of OpenAI and ensure that we continue OpenAI’s mission to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of us. humanity,” said Bret Taylor, chairman of the board of directors of OpenAI, quoted in the press release.

The success of ChatGPT at the end of 2022 propelled its creator to the rank of Silicon Valley star and launched the trend for generative AI (production of content on a simple query in everyday language). For Sam Altman and his colleagues, the goal is to improve the technology so that it has cognitive abilities similar to or superior to those of humans – what they call “general AI”.

Last November, four members of the board of directors justified the dismissal of Sam Altman by his lack of “transparency” towards them, without giving further details. According to American media, several of them criticized the former Stanford student for favoring the accelerated development of OpenAI, even if it meant asking fewer questions about the possible potential abuses of AI. Last week, Elon Musk, one of OpenAI’s co-founders, filed a lawsuit against the company, accusing Sam Altman and current management of having “betrayed” its original mission – according to its non-profit statutes, it was to work for the good of humanity and design “open source” AI programs (accessible, modifiable, usable and redistributable by all).

The boss of Tesla, SpaceX and X (ex-Twitter) left the organization in 2018 and is now one of its most virulent critics. He particularly criticizes OpenAI for its partnership with Microsoft, which has invested some $13 billion in the start-up in recent years. The two companies market AI services for developers and individuals, and compete with Google and other tech giants in this area.

Sam Altman and other executives detailed their counterarguments Tuesday, with supporting emails, to show that Elon Musk was not opposed to the idea of ​​transforming OpenAI to carry out his mission to build general AI in the common interest. By 2017, “we all realized that we were going to need a lot more capital to succeed in our mission – billions of dollars a year, which was way more than any of us, especially Elon, thought be able to raise as a non-profit organization,” they explain in particular. Last year, Elon Musk founded his own artificial intelligence company, xAI.