OpenAI is bringing in the former head of Twitch as interim CEO just days after the company pushed out its well-known leader Sam Altman, sparking upheaval in the AI world.
Emmett Shear announced his new role Monday morning in a post on X , formerly known as Twitter, while also acknowledging “the process and communications” around Altman’s firing on Friday was “handled very badly” and damaged trust in the artificial intelligence company.
Meanwhile, Microsoft, which has invested billions in the AI company, said Monday it's bringing in Altman and former OpenAI President Greg Brockman – who quit in protest following Altman’s ouster - to lead the tech giant’s new advanced AI research team.
Shear, 40, is the co-founder of the Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch, a social media site that’s mostly known for gaming.
Twitch was originally part of the streaming video site Justin.tv, which was founded by Shear and three other tech entrepreneurs in 2006. The focus shifted toward gaming in 2011, a move that turned the platform into a growing phenomenon and birthed a plethora of well-known streamers. Three years later, Amazon purchased the company for approximately $970 million in cash.
Twitch doesn’t garner as much media attention as other social media companies, but it’s been the subject of scrutiny during two instances in the past few years when mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Germany were livestreamed on its platform.
Shear left the company in March. He said that was due to the birth of his now 9-month-old son.
After leaving Twitch, Shear became a visiting partner at Y Combinator, a startup incubator that launched Airbnb, DoorDash and Dropbox. Both Altman and Shear know each other as the original batchmates at Y Combinator, where Altman previously served as president.
In his LinkedIn profile, Shear says he’s been “starting, growing, and running companies since college” and doesn’t “plan to turn back any time soon.” He graduated from Yale University in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
When it abruptly fired Altman, OpenAI said an internal review found the 38-year-old was “not consistently candid in his communications” with the board of directors. The company did not provide more details, leaving industry analysts and tech watchers reading tea leaves in an effort to figure out what happened.
Three goals for the month
Shear said he wants to accomplish three things within the next 30 days.
In addition to hiring an independent investigator who will “generate a full report” about what happened, Shear said he wants to continue talking to stakeholders and reform the company’s management and leadership teams in light of recent departures.
After that, he said he “will drive changes in the organization — up to and including pushing strongly for significant governance changes if necessary.”
″OpenAI’s stability and success are too important to allow turmoil to disrupt them like this,” he said.
On a podcast in June, Shear said he’s generally optimistic about technology but has serious concerns about the path of artificial intelligence toward building something “a lot smarter than us” that sets itself on a goal that endangers humans . As an engineer, he said his approach would be to build AI systems at a small and gradual scale.
“If there is a world where we survive ... where we build an AI that’s smarter than humans and survive it, it’s going to be because we built smaller AIs than that, and we actually had as many smart people as we can working on that, and taking the problem seriously,” Shear said in June.
Asked by an X user on Monday what his stance was on AI safety, Shear replied: “It’s important.”