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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ruivivar

Altman's Return: Power Surge or Governance Risk?

📸 ModelProp / Midjourney

Guess who's back?

That's right, Sam Altman is back in the driver's seat at OpenAI, and it's causing quite a stir. The move could potentially consolidate his influence over the startup, sparking concerns about unchecked power as OpenAI rolls out technology that could revolutionise industries.

Altman's return comes hot on the heels of his dismissal, and a reshuffled board that promises more rigorous oversight of the startup. However, robust backing from investors like Microsoft might grant Altman more freedom to monetise the technology.

While Altman's comeback might smooth ruffled feathers on the surface, governance issues could lurk beneath. As Mak Yuen Teen, director of the Centre for Investor Protection at the National University of Singapore Business School, points out, "Altman seems awfully powerful and it is unclear that any board would be able to oversee him."

The new board, boasting top-level experience and strong connections to the U.S. government and Wall Street, will have its work cut out. Altman's reinstatement, following pressure from Microsoft and overwhelming support from OpenAI employees, has left him invigorated, but also potentially wielding too much power.

The board's new chair is Bret Taylor, former co-CEO of Salesforce and instrumental in Elon Musk's $44 billion acquisition of Twitter. Other notable members include former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, a vocal commentator on the potential job losses and disruption caused by AI.

While the management upheaval could prompt OpenAI executives to tread carefully, some analysts believe that the startup will now face more scrutiny. Despite concerns about corporate governance, companies like Facebook parent Meta have thrived with a powerful CEO at the helm. As Gartner analyst Jason Wong points out, "Sam definitely comes out stronger but also dirtied and will have more of a microscope from the AI and broader tech and business community."

So, buckle up! It looks like we're in for an interesting ride as we watch how this power play unfolds at OpenAI.

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