Now, if the latest news is anything to go by, it sounds as though Altman's own personal investments may have played a role as well.
As Wired reports, OpenAI signed a letter of intent to invest $51 million in AI chips for a startup called Rain AI — a company Altman had already invested in himself.
In other words, Altman almost certainly had a financial interest in a company that was poised to get OpenAI funding — raises ethical questions at the strangely-structured OpenAI and further obscuring one of the most bewildering tech stories of the year in even more mystery.
Rain, a San Francisco-based company, is hoping to replicate some of the human brain's functions using a computer chip dubbed a "neuromorphic processing unit."
According to documents obtained by Wired, Altman had already invested more than $1 million in the company prior to the letter of intent.
"Over four years ago, we signed a nonbinding Letter of Intent with Rain to engage in discussions regarding a written agreement," an OpenAI spokesperson told the publication.
"We have not proceeded with next steps," she said, adding that "we are open to future discussions with Rain."
How much did the intermingling of his personal dealings with OpenAI's play in Altman's ousting? Insiders told Wired that it certainly played a role.
At the time of his dismissal last month, the company's nonprofit board remained vague, writing in a short statement that Altman "was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities."
The news of Altman's personal investment in Rain also highlights the race to secure AI chips in the burgeoning industry. Companies like OpenAI and Google are struggling to secure the necessary hardware to power and train increasingly capable AI models.
OpenAI has faced considerable headwinds in its own attempts to keep tools like ChatGPT running. Following the announcement of a slew of new features last month, the company had to pause new signups because of a flood of new users that "exceeded our capacity," per Altman. (He was fired just three days later.)
But whether Rain AI will be able to provide a solution any time soon remains unclear. Following a national security investigation by a US government agency, a Saudi Arabian ventures fund had to sell its considerable stake in the company last year, as Bloomberg reported at the time.
In short, it's still too early to tell if Altman was fired for letting his personal investments take priority. But it's certainly not a good look in light of the chaos the company has been through over the last few weeks.
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