• OpenAI's board was as surprised as the public by ChatGPT's 2022 release, a former member claims.
  • Helen Toner says the board was "not informed in advance" and actually learned about it on Twitter.
  • She says CEO Sam Altman had been "withholding" and "misrepresenting" information with them.

The release of ChatGPT took the world by surprise back in 2022 — and a former OpenAI board member claims that was the case for the company's board of directors, too.

On November 30, 2022, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tweeted a link to the chatbot, writing, "Today we launched ChatGPT. Try talking with it here." But Helen Toner said the board wasn't given a heads-up about the release and, in fact, learned about it from Twitter (now X).

"For years, Sam had made it really difficult for the board to actually do that job by withholding information, misrepresenting things that were happening at the company, in some cases outright lying to the board," she said in an interview with Bilawal Sidhu on "The TED AI Show" that aired Tuesday.

Toner said one example was the ChatGPT release, where "the board was not informed in advance."

In November 2023, Altman was briefly ousted, with OpenAI's board at the time saying a review showed he "was not consistently candid in his communications with the board."

But OpenAI reinstated Altman as CEO less than a week later after facing internal and external pressure. Nearly all of the company's staff had threatened to quit after Altman's firing, and Microsoft said it would hire Altman to lead an AI team.

Toner resigned from her role as an OpenAI board member a week after Altman returned as CEO.

OpenAI did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment, though current OpenAI board chairman Bret Taylor said in a statement to the podcast, "We are disappointed that Ms. Toner continues to revisit these issues."

An independent review of Altman's firing "concluded that the prior board's decision was not based on concerns regarding product safety or security, the pace of development, OpenAI's finances, or its statements to investors, customers, or business partners," Taylor added in his statement to the podcast.

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