Shear cofounded livestreaming platform Twitch, which sold to Amazon for nearly $1 billion in 2014. He stepped down as CEO in March, ending a 16 year run at Twitch, citing the birth of his first child. Shear moved in some of the same Silicon Valley circles as the CEO whose shoes he must now fill. In 2011, Shear and Altman both were named part-time partners at the same time for the startup incubator Y Combinator, which Altman later on went on to lead.
Shear is a self-described techno-optimist, but has expressed deep fears of a rogue sentient AI. “This is not a figure it out later thing, this like is a big fucking problem,” he said on the Logan Bartlett podcast in June.
Chase, a longtime Twitch spokesperson now at StreamElements who goes by one name, described Shear as “a good fit to helm OpenAI given his passion for benefitting the many over the few, as he illustrated with Twitch coupled with his concerns about the potential for AI to be dangerous.”
The story of Altman’s ousting and quick return raises questions about OpenAI’s governance and long-term prospects. The structure that enabled a small number of people without ties to the company to decide Altman’s fate, originally intended to keep OpenAI’s technology beneficial to humanity, has come under new scrutiny. Some investors previously expressed concern about the nonprofit board’s lack of corporate experience.
The saga also points to a schism in the tech industry between those who see generative AI like ChatGPT as a technology to be exploited commercially, and those who worry about the risks of pushing the boundaries on something that has proven both powerful and unpredictable.
News of Altman’s exit blindsided investors who have spent billions of dollars bankrolling OpenAI’s research. Microsoft, a key partner that has pledged $13 billion in funding and provided vast cloud computing resources, led a push, among other investors, to have Altman reinstated.
Altman founded OpenAI in 2015 with Brockman, Elon Musk, and a small crew of top AI researchers. Their goal was to create an open, nonprofit AI entity as a counterpoint to the profit-motivated likes of Google. The organization would work on developing superhuman AI with the goal of benefiting all of humanity rather than a few powerful tech companies and their shareholders.