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Elon Musk Sues OpenAI for ‘Betraying’ Non-profit Mission

Elon Musk OpenAI
Elon Musk. Credit: dmoberhaus. CC BY 2.0/flickr

Elon Musk has sued ChatGPT-maker OpenAI saying they had abandoned the company’s original mission to develop artificial intelligence for the benefit of humanity rather than profit.

Musk, a co-founder and early backer of OpenAI, claims its co-founders Sam Altman and Greg Brockman convinced him to help found and bankroll the startup in 2015 with promises it would be a non-profit focused on countering the competitive threat from Google.

In a recent interview, Musk said he is “the reason that Open AI exists,” citing his past investment in the entity with his contribution of around $50 million.

“I came up with the name,” Musk told CNBC. He also said he was instrumental in recruiting key scientists and engineers at the company.

Musk says OpenAI has shifted to a for-profit model

The lawsuit, filed in a court in San Francisco late Thursday, says that OpenAI, the world’s most valuable AI startup, has shifted to a for-profit model focused on commercializing its AGI research after partnering with Microsoft, the world’s most valuable company that has invested about $13 billion into the startup.

“In reality, however, OpenAI, Inc. has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft. Under its new board, it is not just developing but is actually refining an AGI to maximize profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity,” the lawsuit adds. “This was a stark betrayal of the Founding Agreement.”

The lawsuit follows Musk airing concerns about OpenAI’s shift in priorities in the past year. According to the legal complaint, Musk donated over $44 million to the non-profit between 2016 to September 2020.

For the first several years, he was the largest contributor to OpenAI, the lawsuit adds. Musk, who left OpenAI’s board in 2018, has been offered a stake in the for-profit arm of the startup but has refused to accept it over a principled stand, he said earlier.

Through the lawsuit, Musk is seeking to compel OpenAI to adhere to its original mission and bar from monetizing technologies developed under its non-profit for the benefit of OpenAI executives or partners like Microsoft.

The suit also requests the court rule AI systems like GPT-4 and other advanced models in development constitute artificial general intelligence that reaches beyond licensing agreements.

In addition to injunctions forcing OpenAI’s hand, Musk asks for accounting and potential restitution of donations meant to fund its public-minded research should the court find it now operates for private gain.

X, the social network owned by Musk, last year launched Grok, a rival to ChatGPT.

Related: OpenAI’s Text-to-Video Tool Sora Sets Internet Alight

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