Read next Elon Musk and Sam Altman founded OpenAI together, but are now at odds in a lawsuit. Here’s the history of their working relationship and feud. Elon Musk helped found OpenAI, but he has frequently criticized it in recent years and is now suing. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has called Musk a “jerk” but said the Tesla CEO “really does care” about AI risks. Here’s a history of Musk and Altman’s working relationship. Advertisement Elon Musk and Sam Altman lead rival AI firms and now take public jabs at each other — but it wasn’t always like this. Years ago, the two cofounded OpenAI, which Altman now leads. Musk departed OpenAI, which created ChatGPT, in 2018 and recently announced his own AI venture, xAI, and AI chatbot, Grok. Now, Musk is suing Altman and OpenAI, saying they’ve betrayed the firm’s founding principles, namely of being open-source and “a nonprofit developing AGI for the benefit of humanity.” Here’s a look at Musk and Altman’s complicated relationship over the years: Advertisement Musk and Altman cofounded OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, in 2015, alongside other Silicon Valley figures, including Peter Thiel, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, and Y Combinator cofounder Jessica Livingston. The group aimed to create a nonprofit focused on developing artificial intelligence “in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole,” according to a statement on OpenAI’s website from December 11, 2015. Source: Business Insider Advertisement At the time, Musk said that AI was the “biggest existential threat” to humanity. “It’s hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society, and it’s equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly,” a statement announcing the founding of OpenAI reads. Advertisement Musk stepped down from OpenAI’s board of directors in 2018. “As Tesla continues to become more focused on AI, this will eliminate a potential future conflict for Elon,” OpenAI said in a blog post at the time, adding that Musk would continue to provide guidance and donations. With his departure, Musk also backed out of a commitment to provide additional funding to OpenAI, a person involved in the matter told The New Yorker. “It was very tough,” Altman told the magazine of the situation. “I had to reorient a lot of my life and time to make sure we had enough funding.” Source: Business Insider, The New Yorker, Business Insider Advertisement In 2023, it was reported that Sam Altman and other OpenAI cofounders had rejected Musk’s proposal to run the company in 2018. Semafor reported that Musk wanted to run the company on his own in an attempt to beat Google. But when his offer to run the company was rejected, he pulled his funding and left OpenAI’s board, the news outlet reported. Source: Semafor, Business Insider Advertisement Advertisement Musk has taken shots at OpenAI on several occasions since leaving. Two years after his departure, Musk said, “OpenAI should be more open” in response to an MIT Technology Review article reporting that there was a culture of secrecy there, despite OpenAI frequently proclaiming a commitment to transparency. Musk also added that his “confidence in Dario for safety is not high,” referring to Dario Amodei, who led OpenAI’s strategy at the time. Source: Business Insider Advertisement In December 2022, days after OpenAI released ChatGPT, Musk said the company had prior access to the database of Twitter — now owned by Musk — to train the AI chatbot and that he was putting that on hold. “Need to understand more about governance structure & revenue plans going forward. OpenAI was started as open-source & non-profit. Neither are still true,” he said. Source: Twitter Advertisement Musk was reportedly furious about ChatGPT’s success, Semafor reported in 2023. In November, the chatbot took off and garnered millions of users for its ability to do everything from write essays to craft basic code. Source: Semafor, Business Insider Advertisement In February 2023, Musk doubled down, saying OpenAI as it exists today is “not what I intended at all.” “OpenAI was created as an open source (which is why I named it “Open” AI), non-profit company to serve as a counterweight to Google, but now it has become a closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft. Not what I intended at all,” he said in a tweet. Source: Twitter Advertisement Advertisement Now, Musk is turning his complaints into a lawsuit. He’s suing OpenAI, Altman, and cofounder Greg Brockman, alleging that the company’s direction in recent years has violated its founding principles. His lawyers allege that OpenAI “has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world” and is “refining an AGI to maximize profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity.” OpenAI has not yet responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit. Advertisement Altman has addressed some of Musk’s gripes about OpenAI. “To say a positive thing about Elon, I think he really does care about a good future with AGI,” Altman said last year on an episode of the “On With Kara Swisher” podcast, referring to artificial general intelligence. “I mean, he’s a jerk, whatever else you want to say about him — he has a style that is not a style that I’d want to have for myself,” Altman told Swisher. “But I think he does really care, and he is feeling very stressed about what the future’s going to look like for humanity.” In response to Musk’s claim that OpenAI has turned into “a closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft,” Altman said on the podcast, “Most of that is not true, and I think Elon knows that.” Source: “On With Kara Swisher”, Business Insider Advertisement Altman also referred to Musk as one of his heroes despite the fact Musk is “obviously attacking” OpenAI on Twitter. In a March 2023 episode of Lex Fridman’s podcast, Altman said, “Elon is obviously attacking us some on Twitter right now on a few different vectors.” Nonetheless, he called Musk one of his heroes, adding, “I believe he is, understandably so, really stressed about AGI safety.” Source: Lex Fridman Podcast, Business Insider Advertisement Altman says he’s learned some “super valuable” lessons from Musk. In a May talk at University College London, Altman was asked what he’s learned from various mentors, according to Fortune. He answered by speaking about Musk. “Certainly learning from Elon about what is just, like, possible to do and that you don’t need to accept that, like, hard R&D and hard technology is not something you ignore, that’s been super valuable,” he said. Advertisement Musk was one of more than 1,000 people who signed an open letter calling for a six-month pause on training advanced AI systems. The letter, which also received signatures from several AI experts, cites concerns of AI’s potential risks to humanity. “Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable,” the letter says. But while he was publicly calling for the pause, Musk was quietly building his own AI competitor, xAI, The New Yorker recently reported. Source: Future of Life Institute, Business Insider, The New Yorker, Business Insider Advertisement Musk since briefly unfollowed Altman on Twitter before following him again; separately, Altman later poked fun at Musk’s claim to be a “free speech absolutist.” Twitter recently took aim at posts linking to rival Substack, forbidding users from retweeting or replying to tweets containing such links, before reversing course. In response to a tweet about the situation, Altman tweeted, “Free speech absolutism on STEROIDS.” Musk has called himself a “free speech absolutist” before and said it’s one of the reasons he bought Twitter. Source: Big Tech Alert on Twitter, Twitter, Business Insider Advertisement Altman joked that he’d watch Musk and Mark Zuckerberg’s rumored cage fight. “I would go watch if he and Zuck actually did that,” he said at the Bloomberg Technology Summit in June, though he said he doesn’t think he would ever challenge Musk in a physical fight. Altman also repeated several of his previous remarks about Musk’s position on AI. “He really cares about AI safety a lot,” Altman said at Bloomberg’s summit. “We have differences of opinion on some parts but we both care about that and he wants to make sure we, the world, have the maximal chance at a good outcome.” Separately, Altman recently told The New Yorker Musk has a my-way-or-the highway approach to issues more broadly. “Elon desperately wants the world to be saved. But only if he can be the one to save it,” Altman said. Source: Bloomberg, Business Insider, The New Yorker Axel Springer, Business Insider’s parent company, has a global deal to allow OpenAI to train its models on its media brands’ reporting. Axel Springer, Business Insider’s parent company, has a global deal to allow OpenAI to train its models on its media brands’ reporting. Advertisement

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