OpenAI’s new interim CEO comes from the streaming world. Over the last three days, the future of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, looked uncertain its board ousted its former CEO and cofounder Sam Altman. After a weekend of intense negotiation that at one point included the possibility of reinstating Altman, the company yesterday (Nov. 19) upheld its decision to kick Altman out and named his replacement: Emmett Shear, the cofounder and former CEO of Amazon (AMZN)’s streaming service Twitch.
OpenAI’s decision to bring on Shear surprised many since his background is not in artificial intelligence (A.I.), though he has previously made strong statements about the dangers of the technology. Shear has alarmed about the likelihood of A.I. destroying humanity and has said he’s in favor of slowing down A.I.’s development.
“If we’re at a speed of 10 right now, a pause is reducing to 0. I think we should aim for a 1-2 instead,” Shear said in an X post in September.
Shear, 40, cofounded what is now Twitch in 2007 with Justin Kan as the gaming section of a larger media platform called Justin.tv. The cofounders decided to spin off the gaming vertical into Twitch.tv due to its popularity on the site and released it in 2011. In 2014, Amazon acquired Twitch for $970 million. Shear continued to serve as its CEO until announcing his resignation in March after the birth of his first child.
In a post today (Nov. 20) on X, Shear described being invited to join OpenAI as “a once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. “I took this job because I believe that OpenAI is one of the most important companies currently in existence,” he wrote. “When the board shared the situation and asked me to take the role, I did not make the decision lightly.”
The former streaming executive added that the OpenAI board did not fire Altman over disagreements on A.I. safety and that he would not have taken the role if that was the case.
After ousting Altman on Nov. 17, OpenAI first replaced Altman with the company’s chief technology officer Mira Murati. The decision sparked resistance from the company’s employees and investors. Greg Brockman, who cofounded OpenAI with Altman in 2015, quit as the company’s president after learning he had been ousted as a board member.
Altman and Brockman have been hired by Microsoft (MSFT) to start a new A.I. research lab. Microsoft is OpenAI’s largest corporate investors.