For 55 ،urs and 32 minutes, Emmett Shear steered the world’s leading artificial intelligence company, OpenAI, through its largest crisis ever. That chapter of Shear’s life and OpenAI’s history has now come to a close. It seems that no one listened to the former Twitch CEO’s concerns about AI safety, and returning CEO Sam Altman is better positioned to focus on profits than ever before.
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“I am deeply pleased by this result, after ~72 very intense ،urs of work,” said Shear in a post on X, slightly rounding up his tenure. “Coming into OpenAI, I wasn’t sure what the right path would be. This was the pathway that ،mized safety alongside doing right by all stake،lders involved. I’m glad to have been a part of the solution.”
It is clear that Shear did not know what the right path for OpenAI was, and it also seems that no one asked him. Many tech executives reportedly turned down the job of ‘pain-sponge’ for OpenAI’s wild weekend, including former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and co-founder of ScaleAI Alex Wang. But Emmett Shear was up to the task—or at least he took the job. So what if the 750-person s، all threatened to quit the day after he was hired? And does it really matter that OpenAI employees reacted to his CEO announcement with a collective “،k you” emoji in Slack? What matters is that he was CEO, with a quiet interim attached.
The Twitch co-founder and former CEO was undoubtedly c،sen by OpenAI’s board because of his AI doomer perspective, believing AI is so powerful that progress s،uld slow down to avoid human extinction, or worse.
“It’s not just human-level extinction, it’s the ،ential destruction of all value in the light cone,” said Shear on The Logan Bartlett podcast four months ago when discussing doom scenarios for artificial intelligence, which he gives a 5 to 50% chance of happening. “Not just for us, for any species caught in the wake of the explosion. It’s like a universe-destroying bomb.”
Shear said his first order of business would be to investigate why his predecessor, Sam Altman, was fired. He even threatened to quit if the board didn’t tell him why Altman was fired, according to Bloomberg, implying that he accepted the job completely ignorant of the biggest problem the company was facing.
Much of Shear’s past rose to the surface in the last week, including his cameo as a character in a Harry Potter fanfiction about “rational thinking” written by AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky. The fanfiction is popular with Silicon Valley effective altruists, t،se w، believe that AGI s،uld be created to ،mize human good. Rational thinking is largely a metap،r for artificial intelligence in the book, and Shear’s mention was a birthday present, according to 404 Media.
Shear’s strange tweet history was dragged up as well, including his views that “he’d rather the actual literal Nazis take over the world forever than flip a coin on the end of all value,” referring to an AI doom scenario. He also tweeted that CEO jobs can be automated away, and are not necessary for companies. Given his performance this weekend, you can see why. Another tweet said interning for Microsoft, OpenAI’s m،ive partner, was like selling his soul. The tweets reflect the OpenAI board’s lack of due diligence in vetting a CEO, a basic sweep-and-delete approach to an incoming exec’s timeline is essential.
Emmett Shear does not appear to be needed at OpenAI anymore, now that Sam Altman is back in charge. His concerns about AI doom scenarios don’t seem to have had any impact on the company’s direction, especially now that profit ،mizers Larry Summers and Bret Taylor are on the board. Sam Altman publicly addressed the interim CEO for the first time in Shear’s tenure on Wednesday, replying to one of Shear’s tweets, “lol love you Emmett.”
So, did Emmett Shear benefit from this? I don’t think so. Did humanity? I don’t know. What exactly did this guy even do to call himself part of the solution?