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This Week in AI: Sam Altman, for-Profits and Enterprise Accelerationism

The generative artificial intelligence landscape showed some of its biggest growing pains this week.

And those growing pains gave industry observers a case of whiplash.

Industry pioneer OpenAI imploded along the seams of its nonprofit board and for-profit operating subsidiary, firing CEO Sam Altman Friday (Nov. 17) and rehiring him just five days later in the face of mounting backlash.

“We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summer, and Adam D’Angelo,” OpenAI said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this.”

All’s well that ends well? That remains to be seen, but it should be a happier Thanksgiving for OpenAI’s employees.

Still, the out-of-nowhere OpenAI drama and its subsequent power-player-heavy resolution wasn’t the only news swirling around AI’s growing advances.

From Altman’s ouster to the increasing use of AI for holiday magic, as well as lots more intelligent enterprise solutions, this is the weekly pulse check on the top AI news and innovations PYMNTS has been tracking.

Read also: The Existential Threat That Microsoft Missed — and Could Put Its GenAI Future at Risk

What’s Going on at OpenAI

The last few days were wild and chaotic for the world’s hottest AI company.

To start, Altman, the 38-year-old face of the generative AI boom, was fired by OpenAI’s board, and then given a new CEO position at a yet-to-be-named Microsoft AI research division Sunday (Nov. 19), all while OpenAI announced former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear as its own newest CEO, the third in three days.

These events and the corresponding opacity around them didn’t sit well with OpenAI’s employees, many of whom were likely excited for the upcoming secondary sale of their stock options at an $86 billion valuation — which, after Altman’s ouster, was falling fast. That’s why nearly all of the firm’s 770 or so employees threatened to leave Monday (Nov. 20) unless the board resigned and reinstated Altman as CEO.

As PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster wrote, before today and after the ousting of Altman and the resignation of Co-founder Greg Brockman, the OpenAI board consisted of four people, including its third co-founder. They were tech-heavy and public policy-focused — and remarkably light on the business skills essential to monetizing and scaling generative AI.

But none of that should be surprising given its stated mission: the nonprofit’s principal beneficiary is humanity, not OpenAI investors or customers. It’s not clear from reading the board manifesto what “humanity” as the principal beneficiary means, nor how the board would weigh lost jobs from AI against lives saved from medical advances, for example.

PYMNTS reported on how it seems that each day, as it looks to balance the tech’s promise with its perils, the AI industry is faced with a new version of the famous trolley problem, a question with no answer whose ongoing purpose is to provoke thought and discourse.

Still, the ruckus at OpenAI was good for its largest backer, Microsoft, whose stock price jumped on the news that it was hiring Altman (before his return to OpenAI Wednesday), and which will likely come out of the ordeal with at least a board observer seat and a tighter rein on the increasingly for-profit nonprofit.

It was also good news for OpenAI’s competitors, as it exposed cracks in the ecosystem.

Now that Altman is back, and OpenAI has a new board, the power dynamics of the landscape can continue their weighted race.

Streamlining the Holidays

AI is proving to be a holiday miracle for brands, retailers and even payment providers, reshaping the way they connect with consumers.

Kohl’s, Simon Property Group and Klarna are all using the tech’s innovative capabilities to sprinkle a little holiday magic over their respective offerings as they look to boost holiday spend.

Elsewhere, jewelry brand Pandora partnered Monday with o9 Solutions, a provider of enterprise AI software, to enhance its integrated planning capabilities.

And for bigger purchases, Copilot debuted a car-buying app powered by an AI assistant. Still, as PYMNTS noted in another report last week, profitability for these car-shopping platforms has been “volatile, sometimes elusive.”

Also in the automotive space, Sheeva.AI and Visa Acceptance Solutions teamed up Tuesday (Nov. 21) to launch a tokenization platform for in-vehicle commerce.

The Everything Technology Goes Everywhere

AI isn’t just the hottest new technology; it is also an increasingly important skill. Amazon announced Monday a new initiative that aims to provide free AI skills training to 2 million individuals worldwide by 2025.

The initiative, called “AI Ready,” consists of three components designed for both adults and young learners and to make AI education accessible to all.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is also partnering with Yellow.ai for the latter to run its generative AI-powered voicebot and chatbot solutions, while SnapLogic is collaborating with AWS to offer SnapGPT, a generative integration that uses both open-source and proprietary AI.

On the regulatory front, Germany, France and Italy have come to an accord on how AI should be overseen, all while the OpenAI drama has sparked debate in the broader European Union around how to best — and most comprehensively — regulate the innovation.

Meanwhile, Meta is reportedly reassigning its Responsible AI team to other in-house AI projects; and Shaunt Sarkissian, CEO and founder of AI-ID, talked with PYMNTS about the legal accountability of AI systems.

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