Microsoft executive Dee Templeton joins OpenAI board

Microsoft exec joins OpenAI board in a non-voting, observer position in a collaborative move between the companies, in the wake of Sam Altman reinstatement

Long-term Microsoft executive Dee Templeton is set to join the OpenAI board of directors as a non-voting observer.

This news comes in the wake of OpenAI undergoing plenty of dramatic changes at the end of last year (2023). In particular, the company saw potential turmoil when company CEO Sam Altman was fired by the board and then reinstated after more than 700 employees threatened to quit and join Microsoft in solidarity. Altman has since devised a new board, including the likes of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers and Adam D'Angelo.

This visibility in the board seeks to redefine Microsoft’s role within OpenAI as both companies move further into 2024. The company still retains a 49% stake in OpenAI.

A continued investment into AI development

Microsoft currently holds a 49% stake in OpenAI, after heavily investing earlier in 2023. Dee Templeton’s appointment marks a significant moment for both companies, as Microsoft continues to have a somewhat ‘silent’ presence in the board. It is reported that she has already started attending board meetings.

According to a report by The New York Times, OpenAI's board had been arguing over the safe development of AI for more than a year, which included how to roll out the technology quickly and efficiently.

Templeton's observer position means Microsoft's representative can attend OpenAI's board meetings and access confidential information, but Microsoft does not have voting rights on matters such as selecting or choosing directors.

She commenced her current position as the tech giant’s Vice President for Technology and Research Partnerships and Operations in November 2023. Within the company, she acts as an advisor to CTO and EVP of AI, Kevin Scott, in addition to overseeing operations for the 1,500-strong workforce of scientists and engineers in the company’s Technology and Research group.

Having been with the company for more than 25 years, she is no stranger to leadership and has nurtured some of Microsoft’s most significant technical partnerships, including the cross-functional team that is accountable for the progress of joint work with OpenAI.

Prior to this current role, Templeton was working in technical and strategic partnerships with Microsoft’s CTO, seeing her well-positioned to maintain the company’s partnership with OpenAI.

Maintaining a close partnership

It is clear that both Microsoft and OpenAI are keen to continue their close partnership as the tech giant continues to invest in the company - but without being too involved in decision-making processes.

AI platforms like ChatGPT are able to offer new opportunities, but this is not without fears of risk having been sparked. It is essential that businesses not only harness these AI models in a safe way, but also ensure that their employees are upskilled enough to handle these systems for when things go wrong.

In fact, OpenAI ended 2023 with details of its new preparedness framework, with a new safety advisory group has been put in place to make recommendations to leadership. It is designed to ensure AI continues to be harnessed responsibly and ethically.

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