Elon Musk, who has been very critical of OpenAI lately, wanted to merge the AI lab he had co-founded in 2015 with Tesla in 2018, his recently published biography has revealed. An excerpt from the biography written by the famous author Walter Isaacson was published in Time, revealing this.
“Musk’s determination to develop artificial-intelligence capabilities at his own companies caused a break with OpenAI in 2018. He tried to convince Altman that OpenAI should be folded into Tesla. The OpenAI team rejected that idea, and Altman stepped in as president of the lab, starting a for-profit arm that was able to raise equity funding, including a major investment from Microsoft,” reads the excerpt.
A previous report by Semafor had claimed that in early 2018, Tesla’s CEO had proposed to Sam Altman the idea of granting him control of the company, with the intention of running it himself due to his belief that the AI lab had fallen behind Google.
The proposal was rejected by other founders of OpenAI, including Sam Altman. This, according to the report, led to Elon Musk stepping down from OpenAI’s board of directors. OpenAI and Musk maintained that he left due to a conflict of interest, as Tesla would compete with OpenAI for talent since the electric car company was building its own AI software for autonomous driving capabilities.
With the latest claim made in the biography, it appears that there was one missing piece in this previous report: Elon’s effort to merge OpenAI into Tesla. After Elon Musk’s departure, OpenAI started a for-profit arm of the company and eventually signed a partnership with Microsoft, which is investing billions of dollars into the firm.
Elon has criticized the company’s transition to for-profit and partnership with Microsoft, worrying that Microsoft’s investment could give them excessive influence over potential superintelligence due to their ownership of software and model weights. Sam Altman has addressed some criticisms but apparently prefers not to discuss them.
According to the excerpt published in Time, the Tesla CEO was resentful for founding and funding OpenAI but not being included in the decision-making process, which was technically his own decision, particularly after OpenAI released GPT-4 and Google released Bard.
Elon’s resentment towards OpenAI and Google, coupled with his fear of AI, led him to launch xAI in July of this year, a new AI company with the aim of “understanding the true nature of the universe.”