They're not wrong, folks.
The OpenAI CEO debacle apparently blindsided its close partner Microsoft so dramaticically that employees there developed a vulgar nickname for the fracas.
As The New Yorker reports, the fiasco that began two weeks ago with Sam Altman's surprise firing became known to insiders at Microsoft, which has a multi-billion dollar partnership with OpenAI, as the "Turkey-Shoot Clusterfuck," a seeming reference to it taking place just before the Thanksgiving holiday.
By accounts both external and internal, "clusterfuck" is the correct terminology to refer to the outrageous sequence of events — the exact cause of which is still publicly unknown, and according to the Microsoft insiders that spoke to The New Yorker, not explicated to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, either.
According to those same insiders, Nadella was literally speechless when he got a call from an unnamed OpenAI exec telling him two Fridays ago that in about 20 minutes, the board was going to fire its popular CEO. He soon afterward called Adam D’Angelo, one of the members of said board, to ask what the hell was going on, and was met with the same vague, boilerplate response that had been given to the press: that Altman had not been "consistently candid in his communications" with the governing body.
When pressed, D'Angelo admitted that the CEO had not done anything improper — but, per the magazine's sources, refused to elaborate.
In an intensive deep dive into the strange marriage between these disparate firms, The New Yorker's sources jointly paint an overarching story that rings true to in-the-know outsiders: that the board was either scared of something OpenAI had been working on under Altman — perhaps its ironically-named Q* program, or perhaps something else we don't know about — or that they were concerned he was going to "go rogue," as the piece put it.
The OpenAI board, which has been controversially restructured in the wake of what many consider a coup, seemed to expect Nadella and Microsoft to go along with sacking Altman for some reason. Instead, the company chose to support the ousted CEO by essentially offering to rebuild his wing of the firm within its confines.
At the end of the day, it's still remarkably unclear why the board chose to fire the CEO — and as one unnamed OpenAI executive told The New Yorker, it's still being shockingly tight-lipped about the entire thing.
"Unless the board’s goal was the destruction of the entire company," the executive said, "they seemed inexplicably devoted to making the worst possible choice every time they made a decision."
Once again, "clusterfuck" seems to be a vulgar-yet-accurate term for what went down at OpenAI around Thanksgiving — and there's no telling what the next chapter for the company itself or its partnership with Microsoft will hold.
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