- Sam Altman was forced out as CEO of OpenAI on Friday, in dramatic fashion.
- Altman and some loyalists (or those wanting to look it) have since made cryptic posts to X.
- Even interim CEO Mira Murati joined in posting ❤️ emojis to Altman amid rumors he may return.
Emojis can contain multitudes — emotion, subtext, irony. Just ask Sam Altman.
The OpenAI co-founder, who was just ousted in dramatic fashion as CEO of the company that kicked off the tech industry’s obsession with generative AI, is already poised for a triumphant return to the company. Microsoft, OpenAI’s biggest investor, reportedly wants him back. Other investors want him back. A lot of staffers do, too. But does Altman want to come back? Feel free to guess with the rest of us!
As rumors and reports that he is in talks to come back as CEO started up about 36 hours after he was fired over Google Meet by his own board, Altman posted to X, formerly known as Twitter: “i love the openai team so much.” (He remains openly hateful of capitalization, however.)
Altman wrote two other tweets during the preceding 24 hours. One that was more snarky than loving: “if i start going off, the openai board should go after me for the full value of my shares.” He holds none. And another that was a god-tier humble brag about how pleased he was with the impressive “eulogy” he’d received while still alive.
Yet, it was the one about the OpenAI team that kicked off our current mystery. The first reply Altman received to the post was a light blue heart (ice blue, one could say?) from Mira Murati, OpenAI’s CTO who was named Altman’s interim replacement as CEO in the harshly worded statement from OpenAI on his ouster. She’s said to have known the day before Altman that he was being ousted.
Heart emoji’s of various colors from OpenAI staff flooded retweets of Altman’s post. Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president who was ousted from it’s board amid what’s been called a “coup” by some tech investors and observers, then quit in solidarity with Altman, followed up with a red heart.
But he retweeted Murati’s blue heart, too, posting a yellow heart of his own. Various members of OpenAI staff have liked both tweets. What?
Jason Kwon, OpenAI’s CSO, tweeted to Altman a red heart, as did COO Brad Lightcap, developer head Romain Huet, Aditya Ramesh, who runs DALL-E, and dozens of other leaders and rank and file technical staffers. Johnathan Lachman, who heads special projects at OpenAI, retweeted Murati’s heart reply to Altman adding “our team spirit is just incredible.” Even the official ChatGPT app account posted a white heart.
Again, what? Is this a coded pressure campaign to bring Altman back? Did he already agree to come back to the team he loves so much? Do the colors of the hearts mean anything? Do these heart tweeters just want to signal their interest in joining Altman and Brockman’s next venture?
One person who hasn’t participated in this digital love fest is Ilya Sutskever, the OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist whom Brockman said did the actual firing of Altman in a meeting with the rest of the board. Is that weird, or not?
Can someone just tell us definitively if Altman is back? Please?
If Altman does decide to refuse to return to OpenAI — let’s be honest, he has all the leverage right now — and he forms a new venture, with Brockman, and perhaps most of the OpenAI staff, it will probably set the record for most multi-million dollar checks written in the shortest amount of time. Just saying. Vinod Khosla is ready and waiting.
The only thing that seems to be truly certain right now: the meme of Matthew McConaughey smoking drugs in “True Detective” is working overtime.
Are you an OpenAI employee or someone with a tip or insight to share? Contact Kali Hays at [email protected], on secure messaging app Signal at 949-280-0267, or through Twitter DM at @hayskali. Reach out using a non-work device.