Microsoft now on OpenAI Board after AI Safe Development Row

Microsoft exec joins OpenAI board in a non-voting, observer position, signalling closer relationship between the two companies after Sam Altman ousting

Long-term Microsoft executive Dee Templeton is to join OpenAI's board of directors as a non-voting observer, following the dramatic events of November 2023 where the ChatGPT founder's CEO Sam Altman was temporarily ousted.

The move redefines Microsoft’s role within OpenAI moving into 2024, with Microsoft reportedly owning a 49% stake in OpenAI, having invested billions of dollars in the company in recent years.

Microsoft and OpenAI: Continued investment into AI development

This news comes in the wake of dramatic changes at OpenAI at the end of 2023. In November, CEO Sam Altman was fired by the board and then reinstated after more than 700 employees threatened to quit and join Microsoft in solidarity.

According to a report by The New York Times, OpenAI's board had been arguing over the safe development of AI for more than a year, which included how to roll out the technology quickly and efficiently.

OpenAI has since devised a new board, comprising Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, Adam D'Angelo and now Templeton.

Microsoft currently holds a 49% stake in OpenAI after making several investments in the company, most recently in 2023.

This observer position means Microsoft's representative can attend OpenAI's board meetings and access confidential information. Microsoft does not have voting rights on matters such as selecting or choosing directors.

Templeton has been at Microsoft for more than 25 years and was the first female technical employee at Microsoft New Zealand. 

Commencing her current position at Microsoft in November 2023, she acts as an advisor to CTO and EVP of AI, Kevin Scott, in addition to overseeing operations for the 1,500-strong workforce of scientists and engineers in the company’s Technology and Research group.

Maintaining a close partnership

It is clear that both Microsoft and OpenAI are keen to continue their close partnership as the tech giant continues to invest in the company - but without being too involved in decision-making processes.

AI platforms like ChatGPT can offer new opportunities, but this is not without fears of risk having been sparked. It is essential that businesses not only safely harness these AI models, but also ensure that their employees are upskilled enough to handle these systems for when things go wrong.

OpenAI ended 2023 with details of its new preparedness framework, with a new safety advisory group that has been put in place to make recommendations to leadership. It is designed to ensure AI continues to be harnessed responsibly and ethically.

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