In 2015, Elon Musk co-founded the startup OpenAI, which aimed to be a non-profit organization dedicated to AI research for the benefit of society. In 2018, Musk tried to run the organization, claiming it was behind Google in development, but after the failure, he declined further large-scale funding for the project. OpenAI changed its business model in a drastic about-face to attract corporate resources and founded Microsoft.
In 2018, Musk reportedly offered to take direct control of OpenAI, but the offer was turned down by other OpenAI founders, including Sam Altman, now the company’s CEO, and Greg Brockman, now its president. Musk then resigned from OpenAI’s board of directors, citing a conflict of interest with his work at Tesla. He abandoned his original intention of investing $1 billion in the company and limited himself to 10 times that amount.
Musk’s decision presented a significant challenge, as the development of large-scale AI models such as the DALL-E image generator and the text-generative AI GPT required huge financial investments. Therefore, by 2019, OpenAI was forced to announce the creation of a new commercial organization to fund its research and very quickly received billions of dollars of investment and resources from Microsoft, which also provided exclusive licenses to use OpenAI technologies in its products.
OpenAI hasn’t commented on claims that it was Musk’s lack of funding that prompted the company to partner with Microsoft, but this version is very plausible. It is important to note that many in the IT community consider OpenAI’s turn to corporate interests to be important, not only because of the change in OpenAI’s original principles, but also because of the desire to bring new AI products to market as quickly as possible bring to. which can have dangerous consequences.
OpenAI’s partnership with Microsoft has certainly changed the openness of the company. When OpenAI announced a new version of the GPT-4 AI language model in early March, many experts were dismayed at the lack of details on its creation and training. OpenAI Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever told reporters that this was done to gain a competitive advantage and prevent abuse. However, many AI experts believe that blocking access to OpenAI models makes it harder for the community to understand the potential threats posed by these systems and concentrates power in the hands of corporations.
Since OpenAI partnered with Microsoft, both companies have brought AI services and products to market at an incredible pace, with Microsoft integrating OpenAI technologies into Windows and the Microsoft 365 suite. This week, OpenAI announced that it will greatly improve the capabilities of its ChatGPT chatbot interaction with other websites and services via plugins. OpenAI says it wants to give the bot “eyes and ears,” but some experts are worried about the emerging security threat.
Musk has repeatedly expressed his dismay at the OpenAI policy change. In February he tweeted that OpenAI “became a closed source company, as profitable as possible, effectively controlled by Microsoft”, adding that this is not what he had in mind at all. And last Friday he posted a meme on Twitter with the caption “I have come to realize that AI, the most powerful tool ever created by mankind, is now in the hands of a ruthless corporate monopoly.”
Just don’t forget that Elon Musk is a financially minded individual and at the same time a skilled manipulator of public opinion, always striving to position himself as a hero.