"It felt like a dream. I was confused. It was chaotic. It did not feel real."
It's been a bizarre couple of weeks for OpenAI.
First, CEO Sam Altman was unexpectedly ousted by the company's non-profit board. Several ersatz CEOs, an impending mutiny, and a reshuffling of the board later, the executive was reinstated.
The experience must've been a rollercoaster of emotions, to put it lightly. In a new interview with former "The Daily Show" host and now-podcaster Trevor Noah, Altman recalled what it was like to be dropped by the company he cofounded alongside Tesla CEO Elon Musk eight years ago — only to be welcomed back with open arms.
"I was in my hotel room, took this call, had no idea what it was going to be, and got fired by the board," Altman told Noah. "It felt like a dream. I was confused. It was chaotic. It did not feel real."
"It happened in this like unprecedentedly, in my opinion, crazy way," he added. "And then in the next, like half hour, my phone, I got so many messages that iMessage broke on my phone."
In many regards, Altman has a point about his ousting being unprecedented — or at least unexpected.
OpenAI, rumored to be worth around $86 billion, has had a stellar 2023 so far. Just two days before his dismissal, the CEO announced a slew of new features. The ensuing rush of new users caused the company's infrastructure to melt down, forcing the company to halt new sign-ups.
Confusingly, we still don't have a clear answer as to what exactly triggered Altman's dismissal, beyond possible conflicts of interest, a top-secret next-gen AI project that may have moved too quickly, and internal disagreements.
Nonetheless, the quickly unfolding events have clearly left a lasting impression on the Silicon Valley executive.
"I stayed up like most of that first night, couldn't really sleep was just like tons of conversations happening," Altman told Noah. "And then it was sort of like a crazy weekend from there."
Just over two weeks later, the dust is still settling and plenty of questions surrounding OpenAI's turbulent November remain.
Even Altman himself is still processing what the hell happened.
"But I'm still like a little bit in shock and a little bit just trying to, like, pick up the pieces," he added. "You know, I'm sure as I have time to like, sit and process this I’ll have a lot more feelings about it."
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