Big Tech companies look to scoop up talent jumping ship from OpenAI

Does he stay? Does he go? As the tech circus playing out over Sam Altman being fired from the artificial intelligence tech firm OpenAI entered a new day, CEO Satya Nadella and other Microsoft execs made it clear that they’d like OpenAI’s employees to bring their talent over to Microsoft.

Microsoft’s chief technology officer took to X Tuesday, saying the company will match the salary of any OpenAI employee who wants to follow Altman’s footsteps and come to Microsoft.

One hiccup, however: It is still unclear whether Altman will stay at Microsoft for the long haul. Even in interviews on Monday, Nadella was not sure.

“Now it’s still in this limbo — will he go back? Will he stay with Microsoft? Why is Sam Altman so desired? It’s crazy,” said Mike Isaac, technology correspondent for The New York Times.

Altman aside, other tech companies are turning to social media to potentially poach the more than 700 OpenAI employees who threatened to leave the company if its board doesn’t resign.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff also weighed in on X, saying his company will match the salary and on-track earnings of those who resign from OpenAI and join his company — adding a heart emoji. 

“It’s kind of like designing a car, you know, you put a car together, put it through all the usual safety tests. And then, once it’s on the road, something happens and then you realize, gee, we should have looked at this other thing,” said Bhaskar Chakravorti,  dean of global business at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

So why should we, the consumer, care about this seemingly siloed Silicon Valley drama?

Because regardless of what happens to OpenAI and its star product ChatGPT, the generative AI genie is out of the bottle. We can glean from the courtship attempts that big tech is actively looking to get ahead in the game of commercially integrating artificial intelligence into more aspects of our lives.

Global technology expert Chakravorti warns us that how AI is shaped when the dust settles on this drama could have big impacts on consumers, and he cautions that the people at the helm need to go about this safely. 

“Many experts believe that there will come a time when this technology can become autonomous and human beings will not have the capacity to understand where the technology is going on its own,” said Chakravorti. 

So it becomes like a self-driving machine, beyond the control of its own creators.

And that is the real worry.