OpenAI’s Board Members Reportedly Discover ChatGPT Launch via Twitter

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The recent revelations made by Helen Toner, a former board member of OpenAI, have shed light on the internal governance issues the company faced in relation to the launch of ChatGPT. Toner disclosed that the board was not informed about ChatGPT until it was released in November 2022. In an interview on The Ted AI Show, Toner criticized the lack of transparency and communication within OpenAI, stating that the board learned about the release of ChatGPT through Twitter. Toner’s comments come following an article she co-wrote with Tasha McCauley, another former board member, which criticized the company’s governance structure.

Toner’s interview also brought to light the circumstances surrounding the controversial firing and subsequent reinstatement of CEO Sam Altman. She revealed that Altman hindered the board’s ability to perform its duties by withholding information, misrepresenting facts, and even lying to the board. Additionally, Altman concealed the company’s ownership structure from the board, including his ownership of the OpenAI startup fund. Toner expressed that this lack of transparency eroded the board’s trust in Altman, leading to serious discussions about his potential firing.

Criticism was also directed at Altman’s leadership regarding safety concerns related to AI. Toner accused Altman of providing the board with inaccurate and misleading information regarding the company’s safety processes. This created a situation where the board was unable to assess the effectiveness of these safety measures or identify necessary changes.

OpenAI responded to these allegations by referring to a statement provided to The TED AI Show. Bret Taylor, OpenAI’s current board chief and co-CEO of Salesforce, expressed disappointment that Toner continues to revisit these issues. He cited an independent review of Altman’s firing, which concluded that the decision was not based on concerns regarding product safety, security, development pace, finances, or statements to stakeholders.

The reasons behind Altman’s sudden removal from the board last year have been a topic of speculation within the tech industry. In March, Altman was reinstated to the board by a group of temporary board members following an independent investigation conducted by the law firm WilmerHale. The investigation found that Toner’s decision to fire Altman and the rest of the previous board was a result of a breakdown in trust between Altman and the board. It also highlighted that Altman was not given an opportunity to respond to the concerns raised before his abrupt firing.

These recent revelations from Toner add to the mounting controversies surrounding OpenAI. Several safety researchers have publicly voiced their concerns and left the company, criticizing its leadership. OpenAI also faced backlash for the non-disparagement agreements it required departing employees to sign, which it later retracted after an investigation by Vox. Furthermore, the company had to defend itself against allegations made by actor Scarlett Johansson, who accused OpenAI of using her voice for ChatGPT without her permission.

Despite the challenges and controversies, OpenAI remains at the forefront of the AI revolution. Its groundbreaking work has significantly impacted the field and continues to shape the future of artificial intelligence. However, the recent governance issues and criticisms highlight the importance of transparency, communication, and ethical considerations as AI technology progresses. The company must address these concerns to maintain its reputation and credibility within the industry.

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