OpenAI's new interim CEO Emmett Shear’s Twitter/X history makes for some bizarre reading, blurring the lines between The Office’s Michael Scott takes and his own musings on women’s sexual fantasies, Nazis, criticizing Microsoft and automating his own C-suite job out of existence.
Shear was the former chief technical officer for Justin.tv, and later became founder and CEO of Twitch until its sale to Amazon in 2014. After leaving Twitch in March just ahead of one of a series of layoffs, he served as a visiting group partner at startup accelerator Y Combinator and joined the board at game development firm Proof of Play.
His slide back into the spotlight comes amid a tense startup psychodrama fit for an HBO mini-series in the firing saga surrounding OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman and ex-President Greg Brockman.
In poring over posts from Shear’s timeline, which TechCrunch called “spicy,” observers have added responses to industry concern over his suitability for even a short-term role at OpenAI, as well as curiosity about his initial plans to steer the firm between open employee revolt, prior contractual obligation and ongoing reputational challenge.
One speculated that “the OpenAI board appears to have skipped or sped up due diligence on their new CEO,” in reference to his posts about sexual fantasies.
Another wrote, “This guy's gonna have the shortest tenure of a CEO in the history of Silicon Valley.”
“If you are wondering how OpenAI's new CEO will run the company, this tweet should remove all your doubts,” another posted. “Sad times to come.”
A June 1 tweet (can we still call them that?) from Shear appears to float with an ambiguous reference to something, while latching onto “the actual literal Nazis” as a focus point.
Who’s to say what Shear was referencing apart from the man himself? Shear did not respond to The Standard’s request for comment in an X/Twitter direct message.
“The Nazis were very evil, but I'd rather the actual literal Nazis take over the world forever than flip a coin on the end of all value,” the post said.
By Aug. 15, Shear had turned his ire, or perhaps his desire, to the world of kink, BDSM and some apparent stats on the number of women who “seem to have rape/non-consent fantasies.”
“It’s a BDSM non-consent/humiliation kink thing…you’re probably right they’re eroticizing some fear, just like almost every kink (eg. feeders eroticize the fear of getting fat and becoming unattractive). But it’s kinky sex fantasy,” the post reads.
“Hmm. Maybe. But between 40-60% of women seem to have rape/non-consent fantasies. Why would you assume it’s not genuine sex fantasy for these girls? Or did I misunderstand and you agree it’s genuine fantasy, you’re just talking about the source of the fantasy?”
In late July, Shear replied to a post that read "the worst kind of demon would be one that pays you just a tiny bit each time you destroy a little bit of yourself," with a comment about him interning for Microsoft—OpenAI's biggest backer.
Microsoft has invested a whopping $13 billion into the ChatGPT creator and continues to be involved in the fallout surrounding Altman's firing.
"When I was interning for Microsoft every paycheck felt like I was getting the payment for a little chunk of my soul in the mail," Shear's post reads.
September brought a philosophical debate on the difference between slowing down and pausing and the delicacies one might consume while camping.
Toward the end of the month, Shear ran a poll on the possible benefits of a housing market crash before throwing a very Michael Scott quote out into the digital abyss.
“I specifically say I’m in favor of slowing down, which is sort of like pausing except it’s slowing down. If we’re at a speed of 10 right now, a pause is reducing to 0. I think we should aim for a 1-2 instead.”
“Bugs taste good actually, have you ever had popcorn crickets? totally delicious. on an unrelated topic, my shiftpod is a great camping experience.”
“You can divide people into two groups: would a sustained crash in the price of housing would be a good thing or not?"
“One of my favorite things is that when I talk, I don't know what I'm going to say before I say it really. So I find out about my insights and jokes at the same time everyone else does, and it's pretty entertaining.”
Shortly before his hiring at OpenAI, Shear took aim at the ideology of liberalism—before contemplating automating his own C-suite job, and others like it, out of existence for human workers.
“Liberalism is the ideology that says people should be free to live as they wish, so long as they don't harm others in doing so. ‘Harm’ does a lot of work there...by breathing air, I reduce the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere slightly...is that harm?”
“Unironically. Most of the CEO job (and the majority of most executive jobs) are very automatable. There are of course the occasional key decisions you can’t replace.”
And these are just his tweets. His Reddit also makes for an interesting read under the handle OptimizePrime.
George Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org