OpenAI Claps Back at Musk Lawsuit, Releases Private Emails

The ChatGPT parent company says Elon Musk was supportive of for-profit restructuring and wanted to be CEO and have board control.

Shane Snider , Senior Writer, InformationWeek

March 6, 2024

2 Min Read
a Twitter account of Elon Musk is displayed on a smartphone with an OpenAI logo in the background.
SOPA Images Limited via Alamy Stock

OpenAI on Tuesday struck back at accusations in Elon Musk’s lawsuit against the company, sharing private emails with OpenAI leaders that appear to contradict Musk’s claims.

Last week, Musk filed a lawsuit alleging that OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman violated the company’s founding mission to develop artificial intelligence safely and in an open-source environment. OpenAI published a late night blog post Tuesday claiming that Musk supported the for-profit formation, agreed that some development should be closed, and wanted to be CEO of the company and make it part of his Tesla business.

The blog post, signed by several OpenAI leaders, points to emails where the parties agreed that the company would need billions of dollars in funding to achieve its goal to develop AGI (artificial general intelligence). “We all understood we were going to need a lot more capital to succeed at our mission -- billions of dollars per year, which was far more than any of us, especially Elon, thought we’d be able to raise as the non-profit.”

Furthermore, before leaving OpenAI in 2018, Musk wanted to fold OpenAI into Tesla and wanted control of the company.

“We couldn’t agree to terms on a for-profit with Elon because we felt it was against the mission for any individual to have absolute control over OpenAI,” the OpenAI blog post says. The blog quotes a post purportedly from Musk, that suggested OpenAI should “attach to Tesla as its cash cow,” and that “Tesla is the only path that could even hope to hold a candle to Google.”

Related:Elon Musk Sues OpenAI, Claiming Breach of Contract

The blog post alleges that Musk said he planned to build an AGI competitor within Tesla.

Ilya Sutskever, the former OpenAI board member who is known for being on the cautious side of AI’s development and who was at the center of Altman’s firing (and subsequent return), told Musk in an email dated Jan. 2, 2016, “As we get closer to building AI, it will make sense to start being less open. The Open in openAI [sic] means that everyone should benefit from the fruits of AI after it’s built, but it’s totally OK to not share the science…”

To which, Musk replied, “Yup.”

Musk on Wednesday made several posts on his X platform, formerly Twitter, mocking OpenAI. In response to OpenAI’s Twitter post about its blog post, Musk said he would drop the lawsuit if the company changed its name to “ClosedAI.” He did not address any of the allegations or email correspondence posted.

“We’re sad that it’s come to this with someone whom we’ve deeply admired -- someone who inspired us to aim higher, then told us we would fail, started a competitor, and then sued us when we started making meaningful progress towards OpenAI’s mission without him,” the blog post says.

Related:Return of the King: Altman Reclaims OpenAI Throne

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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