The Tesla founder says ChatGPT parent company OpenAI has abandoned its mission to create safe artificial intelligence.

Shane Snider , Senior Writer, InformationWeek

March 1, 2024

2 Min Read
OpenAI logo displayed on a phone screen and Elon Musk's Twitter account displayed on a screen in the background.
NurPhoto SRL via Alamy Stock

At a Glance

  • After Elon Musk’s departure, OpenAI restructured and formed a for-profit arm, gaining major backing from Microsoft.
  • Musk’s lawsuit marks the latest in a string of legal woes for Open AI, including the company’s use of copyrighted material.

Tech mogul Elon Musk on Thursday filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman, claiming the maker of generation AI juggernaut ChatGPT violated its founding mission to develop artificial intelligence safely and in an open-source environment.

Musk, who was a founder of OpenAI in 2015 along with Altman and Greg Brockman, left the company in 2018 after saying the technology was “potentially more dangerous than nukes.” After Musk’s departure, OpenAI restructured and formed a for-profit arm, gaining major backing from Microsoft, which pledged more than $10 billion to bolster GenAI efforts.

The lawsuit also takes aim at the company’s efforts with artificial general intelligence (AGI), which would advance AI research to create human-like intelligence and the ability to self-teach.

“To this day, OpenAI, Inc.’s website continues to profess that its charter is to ensure that AGI benefits all of humanity. In reality, however, OpenAI, Inc. has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft,” according to the lawsuit.

OpenAI’s Altman was briefly fired by its board of directors in November. Just days later after Microsoft intervened, Altman was reinstated, and new board members were named. Microsoft scored a non-voting, “advisory” seat on the board.

Related:OpenAI’s Dysfunctional Thanksgiving: 5 Key Players in Coup Drama

“Under its new Board, [OpenAI] is not just developing but is actually refining an AGI to maximize profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity,” the lawsuit stated.

Musk’s lawsuit marks the latest in a string of legal woes for Open AI, including other lawsuits concerning the company’s use of copyrighted material and an ongoing investigation by the Federal Trade Commission focused on its investments and partnerships.

Last year, Musk signed an open letter alongside many technology luminaries calling for a pause on GenAI research. That didn’t stop Musk from launching his own GenAI service, Grok, a large language model trained on posts from Musk’s X platform, (formerly Twitter).

Manoj Saxena, founder and chairman of the Responsible AI Institute (RAI Institute), tells InformationWeek in an interview that Musk’s lawsuit could force a very important conversation.

“I do believe that deep inside, Elon has a real point of view and concern,” Saxena says. “I saw it both as a brilliant and a reckless move to launch ChatGPT. There’s no doubt it was the ‘iPhone moment’ of the AI industry. But there are still a lot of parts that need to be put in place and as messy as it is, this is a conversation that needs to be had.”

Related:FTC GenAI Probe Hits Google, Amazon, OpenAI, Microsoft and Anthropic

Saxena likens AI safety to the car industry’s history creating safeguards. “But in this case, we don’t have 50 years,” he warns.

InformationWeek has reached out to OpenAI, Microsoft, and Musk’s attorneys and will update with any response.

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About the Author(s)

Shane Snider

Senior Writer, InformationWeek, InformationWeek

Shane Snider is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of industry experience. He started his career as a general assignment reporter and has covered government, business, education, technology and much more. He was a reporter for the Triangle Business Journal, Raleigh News and Observer and most recently a tech reporter for CRN. He was also a top wedding photographer for many years, traveling across the country and around the world. He lives in Raleigh with his wife and two children.

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