Emmett Shear at Web Summit in 2018

OpenAI Has a New Interim CEO, and He Has an Interesting Stance on AI

Emmett Shear has been named the interim CEO of OpenAI after former CEO Sam Altman was ousted from the company. Shear is an interesting choice for the position, given his previous stance on artificial intelligence.

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Altman was CEO of OpenAI for four years and was considered one of the most powerful figures in the world of AI. Under his leadership, the company introduced ChatGPT in 2022, marking a huge milestone in AI’s development. Although his sudden firing on November 17 may have come as a surprise, there were issues under the surface. Altman was all for aggressive AI development without safeguards, raising questions of whether he even knew what it was that he was making. He even admitted to not fully knowing how fast AI would expand and what its implications would be. Even as he acknowledged that AI posed the “risk of extinction” to humanity, he charged ahead with its further advancement.

The former OpenAI CEO is also facing abuse allegations from his sister, Annie Altman. Despite attempts to push these allegations under the rug, they are finally receiving some attention. Cracks are beginning to appear in the facade of the larger-than-life powerful genius. The OpenAI Board said that Altman wasn’t “candid” in his communications and that the Board had lost its “confidence in his ability to lead.” While Altman was quickly scooped up by Microsoft to lead an advanced research team, a new big name in the tech industry has taken over as interim CEO of OpenAI.

Meet Emmett Shear, OpenAI’s Interim CEO

OpenAI has selected Shear, the co-founder and former CEO of Twitch, to lead the company during this time of transition. His hiring was a bit surprising for a few reasons. First, he resigned from Twitch just earlier this year and seemed to be walking away from the CEO lifestyle. Shear has spent the majority of his career on the creation of Twitch. In 2006, he and Justin Kan decided to make a “24/7 live reality television show” about Kan’s life. Called Justin.tv, the live stream invited viewers to follow Kan’s everyday life for almost a year.

Following someone’s livestream 24/7 is interesting for a time. However, it was the idea of being able to watch live streams from anyone at any time that ultimately took hold. Justin.tv turned into Twitch, which is now the world’s leading live stream service and a staple in the gaming community. Over 16 years, Shear built up quite a thriving community for gamers. However, it was also at this point that he decided the company was mature enough to succeed without him.

Shear announced on March 16, 2023, that he was resigning from Twitch as CEO but would continue working with the company in an advisory role. One of the main reasons for this decision was the birth of his son. He wrote on his Twitch blog, “With the arrival of my son, the time has come for me to focus my energies on building that tiny little startup family, and I’m ready to dedicate my energies there.” Daniel J. Clancy took over as Twitch CEO, and Shear has largely stayed out of the spotlight—that is until he announced he was taking on the role of interim CEO at OpenAI.

Shear announced on X (formerly Twitter) that he had accepted the role. He acknowledged that he wasn’t actively looking for full-time employment and that the time he spent with his son was “every bit as rewarding” as he expected it to be. However, he said that OpenAI was too important of a company with too impressive a team not to help it restabilize during this period. “I took this job because I believe that OpenAI is one of the most important companies currently in existence,” Shear said. He went on to lay out his 30-day plan, which includes hiring a private investigator to look into the events leading up to Altman’s firing, speaking to everyone involved in the company to get an idea of what needs to happen, and reforming “the management and leadership team.”

What is Shear’s stance on AI?

Shear’s 30-day plan sounds fairly promising. As an interim CEO, it’s not as if he’ll be making massive changes to the company within a few short days. It appears he’s simply focusing on learning what happened and what needs to happen going forward to stabilize the company, restore trust with employees, and fix any leadership issues. However, while he touched on his hopes for OpenAI and his respect for the company, he did not touch on his stance on AI.

In former interviews, Shear expressed sentiments similar to Altman’s about the dangers of AI. As reported by Business Insider, Shear warned that AI could be “like a universe-destroying bomb.” He suggested that AI could one day continue to gain more intelligence without human aid. “And that kind of intelligence is just an intrinsically very dangerous thing,” Shear said. “Because intelligence is power.” Shear also pegged the potential for a doomsday AI scenario at 5% – 50%, acknowledging that there’s simply too much uncertainty about the technology.

As recently as September, Shear suggested slowing down AI development significantly. At the same time, he emphasized he wasn’t interested in a full “pause.”

But Altman also had a doomsday perspective of AI and continued forging ahead with its development. So it’s difficult to tell what Shear’s thoughts on AI mean for OpenAI. When asked his stance on AI safety, Shear responded only with, “It’s important.”

Ultimately, it remains to be seen what Shear’s leadership means for OpenAI. It can’t be denied that he’s a very intelligent and tech-savvy individual with an impressive past CEO stint on his resume. Still, if he’s emphasizing AI safety and listening to what everyone—including employees, investors, and consumers—thinks about the company and AI, OpenAI could benefit from the transparency and restraint.

(featured image: Handout / Getty Images)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.