What you need to know about Emmett Shear, the new interim CEO of OpenAI

What you need to know about Emmett Shear, the new interim CEO of OpenAI

OpenAI is bringing in a former Twitch chief as interim CEO just days after the company ousted its well-known leader Sam Altman, sparking an uproar in the world of artificial intelligence.

Emmett Shear announced his new role on Monday morning in a post on Xformerly known as Twitter, also acknowledged that the process and communications surrounding Altman’s firing on Friday were “very poorly handled” and damaged trust in the company.

In abruptly firing Altman, OpenAI said an internal review found the 38-year-old was “not consistently honest in his communications” with the company’s board of directors. OpenAI did not provide more details, leaving industry analysts and technology watchers reading tea leaves to try to figure out what happened.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, which has invested billions in the AI ​​company, said Monday that it is bringing in Altman and former OpenAI President Greg Brockman — who quit in protest after Altman’s ouster — to lead a team the tech giant’s new advanced AI research.

At OpenAI, Shear has promised to shed light on Altman’s departure. In his X post, he promised to hire an independent investigator to look into what led to Altman’s ouster and write a report within 30 days.


Shear, 40, is the co-founder of Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch, a social media site known primarily for gaming.

Twitch was originally part of the streaming video site Justin.tv, which was founded by Shear and three other tech entrepreneurs in 2006. The focus shifted towards gaming in 2011, turning the platform into a growing phenomenon. in size and abundance of wells grew. – known streamers. Three years later, Amazon bought the company for about $970 million in cash.

Twitch does not attract as much media attention as other social media companies, but it has come under scrutiny during two cases in recent years where mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Germany were live streamed. on his platform.

Shear left the company in March. He said that was because of the birth of his son who is now 9 months old.

After leaving Twitch, Shear became a visiting partner at Y Combinator, a startup incubator that launched Airbnb, DoorDash and Dropbox. Altman and Shear know each other as alumni from the first class of startup founders at Y Combinator. Altman later served as president of Y Combinator.

In his LinkedIn profile, Shear says he’s been “starting, growing and running companies since college” and has “no plans to go back anytime soon.” He graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2005.


OpenAI named its chief technology officer, Mira Murati, as interim CEO on Friday. But she appeared to be one of the signatories to a letter that began circulating early Monday — and was signed by hundreds of other OpenAI employees — calling for the board’s resignation and Altman’s return.

The Associated Press was unable to independently confirm that all of the signatures came from OpenAI employees. A spokesperson at OpenAI confirmed that the letter has been received by the board, who also said that the board had replaced Murati, against the company’s interest.

In his post on X, Shear wrote that he received a call offering him a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to become interim CEO of San Francisco-based OpenAI. He said the company board had “shared the story” with him and asked him to go for the role. He quickly agreed.

“I accepted this position because I believe OpenAI is one of the most important companies out there right now,” he wrote.

Shear said he spent most of Sunday “drinking from the fire hose as much as possible,” speaking to the board, employees and a small number of OpenAI partners.

Investors, for their part, want to stabilize the situation. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella weighed in on X in a post early Monday morning, saying he was “very excited” to bring Altman and Brockman on as he looks forward to “getting to know” the new management team at OpenAI.

Shear was an intern at Microsoft at some point, but from a job he did on X back in July, it doesn’t sound like he enjoyed his time at the company. In response to a post by X from users who said “the worst kind of demon is one that would pay you a little bit every time you destroy a little bit of yourself”, Fiar replied: “When I was joining Microsoft for Microsoft every paycheck felt like I was getting paid for a little piece of my soul in the job.”


In his post on X, Shear said he checked the reasoning behind the changes at OpenAI before taking the job.

“The board did not remove (star) Sam for any particular disagreement regarding safety, their reasoning was entirely different from that,” he wrote.

“I’m not crazy enough to take this job without board support to commercialize our awesome models,” he said, referring to the company’s popular AI tools like ChatGPT and the DALL-E image generator.

“I have nothing but respect for what Sam and the entire OpenAI team have built,” he said. “It’s not just an incredible research and software project, but an incredible company. I’m here because I know that, and I want to do everything in my power to protect it and increase it further.”


Shear said he wants to accomplish three things within the next 30 days.

In addition to hiring an independent investigator who will “generate a full report” on what happened, Shear said he wants to continue talking to stakeholders and overhaul the company’s management and leadership teams in light of recent events. .

After that, he said he will “drive changes in the organization – up to and including pushing strongly for significant governance changes if necessary.”

“The stability and success of OpenAI is too important to be affected by the turmoil like this,” he said.


On a podcast in June, Shear said he’s optimistic about technology in general but has serious concerns about artificial intelligence’s path toward building something “much smarter than us” that sets out a goal that puts people in danger. As an engineer, he said his approach would be to build AI systems on a small scale and incrementally.

“If there’s a world we live in … where we build AIs that are smarter than humans and we live in it, it’s because we built AIs smaller than that, and actually had as many intelligent humans as we can work on . that, and taking the problem seriously,” Shear said in June.

Asked by user X on Monday what his position was on AI safety, Shear replied: “It’s important.”


AP reporter Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.

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