On June 12, 2020, more than 500 of the 700 employees of the artificial intelligence (AI) research lab OpenAI signed a letter addressed to the board of directors, demanding the resignation of all existing members in the wake of the recent firing of co-founder and CEO Sam Altman.
The employees expressed a deep concern that the firing of Altman reflected a “violation of trust,” noting that he had been a critical force in the company’s success in recent years. The letter went on to express that the board had acted without consulting the majority of employees, thus maintaining an authoritarian approach. The workers then stated that they “respectfully request” the immediate resignation of all board members and the appointment of a new team that is more transparent and inclusive.
In addition, the employees indicated that they would take “further collective action” if their demands are not met within 48 hours, including a mass walkout.
OpenAI is an AI research lab dedicated to the responsible development of artificial general intelligence (AGI). It is backed by major investors including Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. The firing of CEO Sam Altman was met with shock and surprise by both employees and industry pundits alike, and the letter is the first move in what could be a long and laborious battle.