The fear that inspired Elon Musk and Sam Altman to create OpenAI


Elon Musk last week sued his two OpenAI co-founders, Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, accusing them of “major violations” of the trio's original agreement that the company develop artificial intelligence openly and without pursuing profits. Will do. Late Tuesday, OpenAI released partially redacted emails between Musk, Altman, Brockman and others that provide a counter-narrative.

The emails show that Musk was willing for OpenAI to become more profit-focused relatively early on, potentially undermining his own claims that it had deviated from its core mission. In one message Musk offered to make more resources available to incorporate OpenAI into his electric-car company Tesla, an idea originally suggested by an email he sent from an unnamed outside party.

The newly published emails also show that Musk was not dogmatic about OpenAI freely providing its developments to everyone. In response to a message from chief scientist Ilya Sutskever warning that open sourcing powerful AI advances could be risky as technology evolves, Musk writes, “Yes.” This appears to contradict the arguments made in last week's lawsuit that it was agreed from the beginning that OpenAI should make its innovations freely available.

Putting the legal dispute aside, the emails released by OpenAI show a powerful cadre of tech entrepreneurs founding an organization that has become immensely powerful. Surprisingly, although OpenAI likes to describe its mission as focused on artificial general intelligence—creating machines smarter than humans—its founders are less excited about AGI than Google and other deep-pocketed giants. spend more time discussing fears about the growing power of

“I think we should say that we're starting with a $1B funding commitment. This is the truth. “I'll cover everything that no one else offers,” Musk wrote in a message discussing how to introduce OpenAI to the world, citing the vast resources of Google and Facebook. Rejected the suggestion to launch by announcing $100 million funding.

Musk co-founded OpenAI with Altman, Brockman and others in 2015, during another period of heady AI hype centered around Google. A month before the nonprofit got involved, Google's AI program AlphaGo had learned to play the devilishly difficult board game Go well enough to beat a champion human player for the first time. This achievement surprised many AI experts, who thought it was too subtle for computers to quickly master. It also showed the potential for AI to master many seemingly impossible tasks.

The text of Musk's lawsuit this time confirms some previously reported details of the OpenAI backstory, including the fact that Musk was first introduced to AI during a 2012 meeting with Demis Hassabis, co-founder and CEO of the company DeepMind. Was made aware of the potential dangers posed by. It developed AlphaGo and was acquired by Google in 2014. The lawsuit also confirms that Musk deeply disagreed with Google co-founder Larry Page on the future risks of AI, something that apparently led to the pair falling apart as friends. Musk eventually parted ways with OpenAI in 2018 and apparently the project has soured since the runaway success of ChatGPT.

Since OpenAI released emails with Musk this week, speculation has run rampant about the names and other details extracted from the messages. Some? turned to ai As a way of filling in the blanks with statistically plausible text.

“It needs billions of dollars per year immediately or forget it,” Musk wrote in an email about the OpenAI project. “Unfortunately, the future of humanity lies in the hands of [redacted],'' he added, perhaps a reference to Google's co-founder Page.

Elsewhere in the email exchange, AI software—like some commentators on Twitter—speculated that Musk had argued that Google had a powerful advantage in AI from Hassabis.

Regardless of who it was, the relationship depicted in the emails between the OpenAI co-founders has since disintegrated. Musk's lawsuit aims to force the company to stop licensing the technology to its primary backer, Microsoft. In a blog post accompanying the emails released this week, OpenAI's other co-founders expressed sadness at how bad things have gone.

“We are saddened that this has happened to someone we deeply admired,” he wrote. “Someone who inspired us to aim high, then told us we would fail, started a competitor, and then sued us when we started making meaningful progress toward OpenAI's mission without him. Gave.”