TechElon Musk sues OpenAI, alleging deviation from humanitarian mission

Elon Musk sues OpenAI, alleging deviation from humanitarian mission

Elon Musk
Elon Musk
Images source: © Getty Images | NurPhoto

2:28 AM EST, March 2, 2024

Musk, a prominent billionaire and a pioneering force behind OpenAI, has accused the enterprise and its head, Sam Altman, of neglecting the company's initial ethos by prioritizing financial gains over human welfare. Musk contends that OpenAI, in collaboration with Microsoft, has developed a practical general artificial intelligence (AGI) and boasts a valuation of $80 billion.
According to the "Wall Street Journal," Musk lodged the lawsuit on a Thursday evening at a San Francisco court. In the legal filing, the Tesla chief levels charges against Altman and OpenAI for contract violation, breach of fiduciary duties, and engaging in unfair business practices. Musk seeks a court order for OpenAI to divulge its technology and demands that Altman and OpenAI relinquish all profits obtained through mission-contradictory activities.

A divergent path for OpenAI's evolution

At the heart of Musk's lawsuit is the vision that drove the inception of OpenAI. Initially aimed to operate as a non-profit, OpenAI was tasked with developing AGI — an AI capable of human-like or superior reasoning — in an open and humanity-centric manner. Musk, who was heavily invested in this project, envisioned OpenAI as an open contender to Google, the AI industry frontrunner then.

However, following disagreements with Altman, Musk retracted his support. Microsoft stepped in as the leading partner, and the eruption of ChatGPT led OpenAI down a commercial and proprietary path. Last year, amid a conflict over Altman's profit-driven direction, which raised board members' concerns, Microsoft seized OpenAI control. Altman emerged victorious from the dispute.
The lawsuit states, "OpenAI Inc. morphed into an effective subsidiary of Microsoft, a behemoth in technology, pivoting to a closed-source model." It further criticizes the shift in focus towards enhancing Microsoft's profitability rather than championing human welfare under the new stewardship.
Currently, Musk and Altman find themselves as competitors in the AI sphere, following the debut of Musk's competitive AI model and chatbot, Grok, the previous year.
Despite Altman's repeated public cautions over the dire potential ramifications of unchecked AI development, he simultaneously acknowledges its vast potential benefits and advocates for a cautious, safety-first approach to AI evolution, particularly in the face of critiques over the pace of technology advancement.
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