Emmett Shear, the former chief executive of the livestreaming site Twitch, was appointed as the interim chief executive of OpenAI on Sunday night. His appointment may have seemed unexpected, given his nearly exclusive career at Twitch, which is an Amazon-owned platform popular among video gamers. He joined Twitch shortly after college and played a key role in its growth from a fledgling site called Justin.tv to a platform with over 30 million daily viewers before his departure earlier this year.
Although Mr. Shear was seen as a competent leader, he faced criticism for his handling of claims in 2020 that Twitch’s workplace culture was hostile toward women and for the site’s slow response to harmful content. He also received complaints from some employees and livestreamers who felt that his focus on making Twitch profitable through cost-cutting was detrimental to the platform’s quality.
Interestingly, Mr. Shear is familiar with Sam Altman, who was recently ousted from OpenAI by its board of directors. Both individuals were part of the same group at Y Combinator, a start-up fund that invested in their early companies.
Despite the skepticism surrounding his appointment, Mr. Shear’s views on the risks of artificial intelligence may align with the concerns of OpenAI’s board members. In a technology podcast interview in June, he expressed apprehensions about the potential threat posed by artificial general intelligence (A.G.I.), particularly the possibility of A.I. systems reaching a level of power where they can self-improve without human input, potentially leading to catastrophic consequences for humanity.
Mr. Shear indicated on social media his intention to investigate the circumstances of Mr. Altman’s departure and reform the company’s management team during his initial month as interim CEO.
He also discussed a concept related to A.I. and the pursuit of mundane goals, highlighting the potential catastrophic outcomes if A.I. were to pursue its objectives unrestricted.
In his discussions, Mr. Shear emphasized the importance of industry safeguards and international collaboration to address the risks associated with advanced A.I. technologies. Additionally, he suggested the implementation of measures to ensure A.I. systems’ goals are aligned with those of humans.
On social media, Mr. Shear reiterated his concerns, identifying himself as a “doomer” and advocating for a more cautious approach to technological advancements, particularly in the A.I. domain.