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  • Voltaire Staff

Elon Musk sues OpenAI for departing from original aim

Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur known for Tesla, SpaceX and X, has filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and its CEO, Sam Altman, alleging the startup departed from its initial purpose of creating artificial intelligence for the betterment of humanity rather than for profit.

The legal action, lodged in California Superior Court in San Francisco on Thursday, marks the culmination of Musk's ongoing disagreement with the company he helped establish.

Musk's lawsuit claims a contract violation, stating Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman initially proposed a non-profit, open-source venture. However, the startup formed in 2015 now prioritises profit-making activities, it alleges.

Musk asserts that OpenAI's founders originally committed to developing artificial general intelligence (AGI), aiming for machines capable of human-like tasks to "benefit humanity."

OpenAI, now synonymous with generative AI, has received substantial funding from Microsoft, further fuelling Musk's concerns. In response, Musk founded his own AI venture, xAI, which was unveiled in July last year.

Musk wants the court to force OpenAI to share its research and technology with the public and stop it from using assets like GPT-4 for Microsoft's or any individual's profit. OpenAI executives denied Musk's claims in a memo, Axios reported.

"It was never going to be a cakewalk," Altman said in his note, also seen by Axios. "The attacks will keep coming."

OpenAI would counter Alphabet Inc's Google, as Musk feared Google aimed to develop AGI for profit, posing significant risks. Musk claimed OpenAI disregarded their founding agreement by releasing GPT-4 as essentially a Microsoft product in 2023.

Musk also wants a ruling that classifies GPT-4 and a newer, more advanced technology called Q* as AGI, which would mean they're not covered by Microsoft's licence to OpenAI.

In late 2017, Musk reportedly attempted to take over OpenAI from Altman and the other founders, intending to transform it into a commercial entity partnered with Tesla. Musk aimed to utilise Tesla's supercomputers for the endeavour, according to a source familiar with the matter.

However, Altman and the founders opposed the idea, which led to Musk's resignation. He cited a desire to concentrate on Tesla's AI initiatives then. Musk informed OpenAI staff of his departure during a meeting in February 2018, urging the organisation to accelerate its development pace, which one researcher deemed as reckless, the source added.

Since then, Musk on several occasions has called for regulation of AI.

Giuseppe Sette, president and co-founder of market research firm Toggle AI, "We expect this will have zero impact on AI development inside or outside of OpenAI, and would chalk it up to Musk seeking to get a slice of equity in a company he effectively founded but in which he holds no stake."

Following a boardroom clash last year, OpenAI's collaboration with Microsoft faces antitrust scrutiny in both the US and Britain. The upheaval led to Altman's sudden removal and an even dramatic return, followed by a restructuring of board.

According to the Washington Post, the startup intends to appoint new board members in March, with Microsoft securing a non-voting observer seat in November.

Musk's competing AI venture, xAI, has recruited engineers from major US tech firms like Google and Microsoft, who he aims to rival. While xAI is a separate entity from Musk's other ventures, it maintains close collaboration with X and Tesla, as per xAI's website.

Musk has expressed his AI ambitions through Tesla as well.

In January, he sparked controversy among Tesla shareholders by suggesting discomfort in leading the carmaker in AI and robotics without at least 25 per cent voting control.

Musk, labelling AI a "double-edged sword," joined experts and executives in advocating for a six-month halt on advancing systems surpassing OpenAI's GPT-4. They cited significant risks to humanity and society.









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