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OpenAI | Summers the chess master

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How did Summers pull it off?

Well, there was a surprise turn of events at OpenAISam Altman is set to return to OpenAI, two female and another male board members are removed. They will be replaced by former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor as part of an interim board, replacing a couple of AI doomers with a (baby) boomer. Quora CEO Adam D'Angelo remains on the board. It's not clear whether D'Angelo supported Altman or if he has been kept on due to existing commercial arrangements between his firm and OpenAI.

Bad optics of the new board

It would be stating the obvious to say the optics look terrible until the board is expanded. Altman bears a large share of the responsibility here for the recent mishaps at OpenAI, appointing a board with limited commercial experience. While employees may express loud support for Altman, he shouldn't be exonerated for screwing up just because their vast fortunes have been salvaged. The AI doomer board members were probably promised something incompatible with the firm's commercial objectives.

What sort of board best suits a startup like OpenAI?

A board that consists of more than six members reflecting a broader range of interests similar to that of other $80 billion valuation companies and tech giants (e.g., Apple). Draw experiences from outside the tech industry, including consumer goods/brands, DC policy circles, finance, media/entertainment, and academia. Reflective of future business growth opportunities and those impacted by the organization's products and services. Less established firms benefit from the rich experiences of board members who are already fully versed in boardroom etiquette and the commercial realities of running a business. People who are mature and already well-accomplished in their careers, seeking the next challenge outside their comfort zone and willing to learn.

It may come as a surprise to a few, but older people do generally give better advice. Another superstar AI researcher on the OpenAI board would not be additive.

Potential candidates for OpenAI board

Former Pepsi Co CEO, Indra Nooyi, is one name that immediately springs to mind. For several years, she led the transformation of the multinational food, snacks, and beverage conglomerate. She probably has a better idea of how OpenAI products will affect 1.4 billion Indians than a 35-year-old academic who once did a trip across the Golden Triangle. If not, she will know people who can help.

Meg Whitman, currently serving as the US ambassador to Kenya, previously the CEO of eBay while also serving on the boards of Goldman Sachs, several blue-chip firms, and startups. Prior to eBay, she was a senior executive at Walt Disney. Her resume reads more like a traditional Harvard Business School high flier than a tech entrepreneur. While her career path has fallen out of vogue in recent years, especially in tech, it may be what OpenAI currently needs.

Addressing AI alignment concerns with baby boomers, not doomers

These are just two immediate names that come to mind. No doubt there are many other highly qualified, interested female candidates to consider. Yet, we cannot think of a single AI doomer with board member credentials. It's possible to address AI alignment concerns by including board members from underrepresented groups who are already well-established and enjoy distinguished careers. And if the boys get a bit too boisterous, as often happens, they know how to restore order without impacting the mission.

Just a little gentle clip around the head… with plenty of love of course.

P.S. Finally, someone has instilled corporate communications discipline amongst OpenAI employees. It was total chaos there for a few days.

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OpenAI | Summers the chess master

Bad interim board optics and potential candidates for OpenAI