OpenAI has been roiled by dramatic executive shuffling since Friday, and the appointment of an interim CEO is only adding fuel to the fire.
Emmett Shear, a co-founder of the streaming platform Twitch, said early Monday that he had been named interim CEO of the artificial intelligence company. Since he left Twitch in March, Shear has taken a freewheeling approach to social media, criticizing Microsoft, weighing in on gender politics and even engaging in discussion about OpenAI’s firing of Sam Altman before his own appointment.
Shear replaced Altman, whom the company’s board ousted Friday. Altman was hired Monday by Microsoft, which has a partnership with OpenAI, and more than 700 out of 770 OpenAI employees have threatened to leave and join Microsoft unless OpenAI’s board resigns and Altman is reinstated.
Shear said in March that he retired from Twitch to spend time with his newborn son, but since the move, he has been a part-time partner at the venture capital firm Y Combinator — which Altman led as CEO less than a decade ago. Shear also previously benefited from Y Combinator’s first funding round in 2005, when he was still in college and successfully pitched a calendar application, which he later sold. Shear later co-founded Twitch, originally a one-person livestreaming platform called Justin.tv, and was its CEO for 12 years.
Shear’s appointment as OpenAI’s interim CEO has already sparked some criticism from technologists and commentators, who have questioned the due diligence involved in the appointment, given his social media presence.
As of Monday, Shear’s bio on X lists his role at OpenAI. Just a few hours previously, his bio said, “Super opinionated about the most random s---.” Shear’s following on X has also doubled since he announced his new position, currently sitting at almost 74,000.
Shear has posted more than 10,000 times on X over the past year, which makes up the vast majority of his post history, according to a graph he made and posted. Most of his posts have been replies, and within those replies, a few of his posts’ topics — like “rape/non-consent fantasies” and the role of CEOs, which he called “very automatable” — have drawn attention online.
Many of Shear’s 10,000 posts over the past year respond to people posing questions and observations about societal and technological issues, including topics like sex and dating, AI, social justice and the tech industry. Shear’s posts on X got relatively little attention before the last week.
In his post announcing his new role, Shear wrote, “I took this job because I believe that OpenAI is one of the most important companies currently in existence.” He said he’d spent the day talking with board members, investors and OpenAI employees, writing: “And it’s clear that the process and communications around Sam’s removal has been handled very badly, which has seriously damaged our trust.”
Shear was posting on X about people involved in OpenAI just days before he became its interim leader. On Friday, the day Altman was ousted, Shear responded to a meme about OpenAI’s chief scientist, Ilya Sutskever, a co-founder and board member, who participated in the decision to oust Altman and then apologized. The meme described Sutskever as a “ruthless machiavelli” who plotted a coup at OpenAI. Shear responded, in part, “Haters do the best marketing.”
A day earlier, Shear posted seemingly in agreement with a New Statesman piece that suggested automating CEOs — replacing their jobs with automated tools. “Most of the CEO job (and the majority of most executive jobs) are very automatable. There are of course the occasional key decisions you can’t replace,” he wrote. “Of course that means you can’t really truly ‘replace’ the CEO, but I think we will see management get widely automated, leading to flatter and more dynamic organizations.”
Shear even answered which parts of a CEO’s job he thinks could be automated, writing, “Communication, problem and opportunity detection, talent identification, constructive feedback.” In response to an assertion that a CEO is the “human embodiment” of a brand for customers, investors and employees, Shear dropped a link to a popular Twitch V-Tuber — a 3D digitized avatar that is operated by a real person.
Previously, Shear has engaged on X with people who are framing thought experiments about AI. In the replies to a poll targeting people in the AI community (many people, both inside and outside the tech industry, have taken an interest in posting about the developing technology), Shear wrote that “people are not nearly scared enough of getting paper clipped.”
The term “paper clipped” refers to theories of AI’s destroying humanity. In the ensuing discussion, Shear wrote, “The Nazis were very evil, but I’d rather the actual literal Nazis take over the world forever than flip a coin on the end of all value.”
The issue of AI safety, he posted Monday, is “important.”