On Sunday, OpenAI announced that Emmett Shear would be taking over as its interim CEO. But in the company’s haste to find a new leader after cofounder Sam Altman’s shocking Friday ouster, it’s unclear if the board was aware of his many public comments about sexual dynamics between men and women — unusual for a business leader at his level. Past comments from Shear, who previously served as CEO of Twitch, show him engaging in discussions about rape fantasy statistics, sex and power, and The Game, a controversial pickup artistry book that popularized tactics like “negging” and “the cube technique.”
On the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, 40-year-old Shear frequently mused at length about dating and how to pick up women. “Receiving attention from an attractive woman, even if ultimately the date goes nowhere, is generally positive utility for a man,” he wrote last June in response to a now-deleted tweet.
“So there’s an asymmetric payoff for the date itself. Most women are interested ~only if it will lead to a relationship eventually. Men are more willing to match, more willing to go on first dates, more willing to have casual sex, etc. Because of the payoff matrix,” Shear added.
According to his tweets, Shear had read The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, a book on seduction techniques written by Neil Strauss. “If you read The Game it becomes clear it’s not really about the sex at all,” he tweeted last August.
Several months ago in May, he remarked that “women can get no-strings-attached hookups, men can get long term commitment.” And in August, Shear wrote: “Using gen ai to write pickup lines for the apps … call that shooting my zero-shot.” (It’s unclear whether this was a joke.)
Shear had not responded to a request for comment by publication time.
In his previous role as CEO of Twitch, Shear faced criticism for his handling of sexual abuse claims made against creators at the streaming platform. One Twitch streamer alleged that Shear, when asked in a meeting about abusive creators, “laughed off” the question and declined to comment. Shear responded by publicly posting a letter he wrote to employees about the allegations, commending the bravery of victims coming forward and pledging to do more to support women and communities of color on the platform. “If at some point you’ve heard my comments and felt they were dismissive or that Twitch doesn’t care, I’m sorry that happened and I want you to know that in no way was that my intent,” he wrote in the letter.
On Sunday, Shear tweeted about his new role as OpenAI’s interim CEO, calling it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” that he accepted because of his belief that the company is “one of the most important” in existence. He cited the birth of his son as the reason for his resignation from Twitch in March.
Shear’s new status as CEO of one of the hottest companies in AI comes after a tumultuous weekend following the OpenAI board’s decision to fire Altman on Friday. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Altman and OpenAI cofounder and president Greg Brockman, who had resigned in protest, would be joining the company to head up a new research group on Sunday night. By Monday morning, the vast majority of OpenAI’s employees had threatened to resign if Altman was not reinstated.
Shear has reportedly been unable to get written documentation of the board’s rationale for firing Altman, according to the Verge, who noted that OpenAI employees responded to an announcement of Shear’s hiring with a “fuck you” emoji. OpenAI investor Vinod Khosla has publicly called for Shear to resign.
Shear appears to be affiliated with the effective altruism community, which has been blamed by some for influencing the removal of Altman and departure of Brockman. (The company has still not disclosed a clear reason for Altman’s firing.) Effective altruism, or EA, is a philosophy that has become increasingly powerful throughout Silicon Valley, and advocates for the strategic spending of wealth to fix the world’s largest problems. It has become known for an alleged prevalence of polyamorous relationships — the highest-profile of these being the romantic group of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who identified as an effective altruist. Several EA members have been accused of sexual abuse and harassment by women within the community.
In September, Shear was a speaker at “Manifest 2023,” a conference in Berkeley, California organized by EA-aligned prediction market platform, Manifold, where he gave a talk on the future of trust and evidence in the age of AI.
OpenAI board members Helen Toner, Tasha McCauley and Adam D’Angelo each have connections to EA, though it’s unclear whether any of them currently identify as members.
When asked by someone on X how he became OpenAI’s interim CEO, Shear replied: “Rapidly and unexpectedly.”
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