Sam Altman had triumphantly returned as OpenAI CEO after being forced out by the board, but it’s likely that one of the key figures behind his ouster might no longer be actively involved with the company.
Sam Altman has said that he’s unsure if OpenAI’s chief scientist Ilya Sutskever is still working at OpenAI. “When you returned, you said you were hopeful that you would find a good role for Ilya, and that things would continue. Have you found that role?” Altman was asked at the World Economic Forum Conference in Davos. “No update yet,” Altman replied.
When asked if Ilya Sutskever was still working with OpenAI, Altman didn’t have a definitive answer. “I don’t know what the exact status of that is,” he said.
“I love Ilya. I think Ilya is like an unbelievable person and researcher. It’s obviously a traumatic event to go through, but I’m very hopeful. I care about him a great deal,” he added.
Ilya Sutskever had allegedly been at the forefront of the failed coup that had ousted Sam Altman from OpenAI. “Sam got a text from (OpenAI Chief Scientist) Ilya Sutskever asking to talk at noon Friday. Sam joined a Google Meet and the whole board, except Greg, was there. Ilya told Sam he was being fired and that the news was going out very soon,” OpenAI President Greg Brockman had said about how Altman was removed.
“At 12:19pm, Greg got a text from Ilya asking for a quick call. At 12:23pm, Ilya sent a Google Meet link. Greg was told that he was being removed from the board (but was vital to the company and would retain his role) and that Sam had been fired. Around the same time, OpenAI published a blog post. As far as we know, the management team was made aware of this shortly after, other than Mira who found out the night prior,” he had added.
The coup had initially appeared to work, with Sam Altman being removed as OpenAI CEO, and Emmett Shear being instated in his place. But this had led to an employee mutiny, with hundreds of OpenAI employees pledging support to Sam, and threatening to quit if he were removed. Interestigly, as the movement gained momentum, Ilya Sutskever himself had joined a signature campaign asking for Sam’s reinstatement. After more drama in which Sam Altman and Greg Brockman had joined Microsoft, they were eventually brought back to OpenAI, and Altman was restored as CEO.
But this appears to have made things difficult for Ilya Sutskever, who had appeared to lead the coup which had caused Altman’s ouster. Sutskever had also not been present at the OpenAI party celebrating Sam Altman’s return. And with Sam being unsure of whether Sutskever is still working at OpenAI even 8 weeks after the entire incident, one of the tallest figures in AI could currently be in a state of flux regarding his own employment.