Key players in the OpenAI meeting drama

On Nov. 17, Silicon Valley was thrown into turmoil when Sam Altman, CEO of high-profile AI startup OpenAI, was abruptly removed from the company’s board of directors. After a five-day roller-coaster ride that encapsulated the increasingly heated battle over the future of artificial intelligence, Mr. Altman was reinstated and a new board was formed. Here’s a list of the players in the biggest tech drama of the year:

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Sam Altman, CEO and founder of OpenAI: Mr. Altman founded OpenAI as a nonprofit lab with Elon Musk and several others in 2015 while serving as president of Y Combinator, a powerful Silicon Valley startup incubator. He took over as CEO in 2018, attached the lab to a for-profit company, and soon raised $1 billion in funding from Microsoft.

credit…Jim Wilson/New York Times

Greg Brockman, president and founder of OpenAI: After leaving MIT, Mr. Brockman was chief technology officer at Stripe, an online payments company that Mr. Altman helped found. He was among the 12 founders of OpenAI, saying the lab would build AI that was free from the corporate pressures that were driving Google and other tech giants.

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Ilya Sutzkever, Chief Scientist of OpenAI and Founder: Dr. Sutskever was among three University of Toronto researchers who started the AI ​​boom in 2012 when they published a paper showing that machines could learn to identify objects in images with surprising accuracy. After joining Google, he defected to join Mr. Altman, Mr. Brockman and others in founding OpenAI.

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Mira Murati, Chief Technology Officer of OpenAI: Ms. Muratti joined OpenAI in 2018 and later became its Chief Technology Officer. When four OpenAI board members – Dr. Sutkever, Adam D’Angelo, Helen Toner and Tasha McCauley – decided to remove Mr. Altman as CEO, they asked Ms. Muratti to serve briefly as interim CEO .

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Adam D’Angelo, OpenAI board member: As a student at Phillips Exeter Academy, he created an online music player with Mark Zuckerberg, the future founder of Facebook. After serving as Facebook’s chief technology officer from 2006 to 2008, he founded the question-and-answer site Quora. He joined OpenAI’s board of directors in 2018 and remains Quora’s CEO.

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Helen Toner, former OpenAI board member: Ms. Toner joined the board in 2021. She has ties to Effective Altruism, a community of people who believe that AI could one day destroy humanity. She is also director of strategy at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technologies, a think tank where she writes on national security issues. She left the board as part of an agreement to bring Mr. Altman back to the company.

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Tasha McCauley, former OpenAI board member: Ms McCauley is an Associate Senior Management Scientist at the RAND Corporation, one of the country’s oldest think tanks, and serves on the UK board of Effective Ventures, a federation of organizations dedicated to effective altruism. In 2015, she attended a seminal AI safety summit in Puerto Rico with Mr. Musk and others. She also left OpenAI’s board when Mr. Altman returned.

credit…Ruth Fremson/New York Times

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft: Mr Nadella clashed with Mr Altman in 2018 at the Sun Valley conference, often referred to as a “billionaire summer camp”. The following year, Mr. Nadella and Microsoft agreed to invest $1 billion in OpenAI. Since then, they have invested an additional $12 billion.

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Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb: Mr. Chesky’s company is another technology startup that Mr. Altman helped incubate. After Mr. Altman was fired from OpenAI — and decided he would find a way back into the company — Mr. Chesky was among the many friends and colleagues who helped make it happen.

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Emmett Shear, former CEO of Twitch: Mr. Shear founded Justin.tv, another startup that Mr. Altman helped incubate. He later served as CEO of Twitch, a company spun off from Justin.tv. He is among those who believe that AI may one day destroy humanity. Mr Shear also briefly served as Interim CEO of OpenAI.

credit…Jim Wilson/New York Times

Brett Taylor, new chairman of the board of OpenAI: Mr. Taylor is a former co-CEO of Salesforce.com and another former CTO of Facebook. He was also chairman of Twitter when Mr. Musk bought it. As part of the agreement to bring Mr. Altman back to OpenAI, Mr. Taylor joined OpenAI’s board and assumed the role of chairman.

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Lawrence H. Summers, new OpenAI board member: Mr. Summers is one of the best-known economists in the country. He was Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration and has been outspoken about the potential for AI to displace workers. But his reputation has been tarnished over the years. While president of Harvard, he said that women may not have an inherent aptitude for math and science.

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Ron Conway, Silicon Valley investor: Mr. Conway is a well-known venture capitalist and longtime friend of Mr. Altman. With Mr. Chesky, he helped persuade Mr. Altman to work his way back into OpenAI. This week, he sent a message to Mr Altman urging him to quash speculation about why he had been removed from OpenAI’s board.

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