Meet Emmett Shear, OpenAI’s ‘Highly Intelligent, Socially Awkward’ Interim CEO
“I’m skeptical. If Twitch serves as a precursor of what’s to come in AI, we can expect a lot of opaque policies and missed opportunities,” argues Joost van Dreunen, a New York University enterprise professor and writer of One Up, a e book on the worldwide video games enterprise. “Twitch has succeeded almost in spite of its management. The platform remains poorly integrated with parent owner Amazon, maintains lackluster communication with content creators and industry partners, and has prioritized monetization over investing in its ecosystem. Such tenure should raise concerns around how AI evolves from here.”
But the previous Twitch worker says Shear does have some attributes that make him a great match for the position. “The move to OpenAI makes a lot of sense to me,” they are saying. “For him, Twitch was a creator platform that was there for the good of individuals—it was less about profits, more about democratizing TV. He’s got quite an ethical core.”
Adam Smith, a cofounder of the e-mail app Xobni, which like Twitch was a part of the Y Combinator neighborhood, says, “Although I disagree with some of what Emmett has said in the past about AI risk, Emmett is very high on my list of people I’d like to work with at some point. He’s one of the smartest people I know, is intensely curious about the world, and genuinely a great person.”
One Y Combinator-affiliated one who labored with Shear, and who requested anonymity with a purpose to converse with WIRED, described him as an “engineer’s engineer,” motivated by mental challenges. “He’s someone who could tech lead something really well,” they are saying. “That might be inspiring to some people.”
Things at Twitch have been rocky lately. There was widespread neighborhood discontent over adjustments to streamers’ income break up final 12 months, and in March 2023, Shear stepped down from his position, saying that he needed to spend extra time together with his new child little one. A 2023 story in The Washington Post, printed following Shear’s exit, quoted former Twitch workers arguing that the corporate had entered a hunch, criticizing its administration and lack of course.
“By the time he left Twitch he had certainly become pretty unpopular with the Twitch crowd,” says Mark Johnson, senior lecturer in digital cultures on the University of Sydney. “I think a lot of people interested in Twitch would frame him as having been in more recent years not really all that responsive to creator and community needs, a bit disconnected.”
Paresh Dave and Vittoria Elliott contributed reporting to this story.