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Elon Musk Takes Credit for OpenAI: ‘It Wouldn’t Exist Without Me’

Elon Musk, the renowned CEO of Tesla and Twitter, boldly claims that OpenAI owes its existence to him. In an interview with CNBC, Musk expressed his pivotal role in creating and developing OpenAI, the organization responsible for the ChatGPT language model. While he couldn’t recall the precise amount, Musk estimated his investment to be around $50 million.

Musk co-founded OpenAI in December 2015 alongside Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, John Schulman, and Wojciech Zaremba. Musk was crucial in recruiting key scientists and engineers, notably Ilya Sutskever, whose involvement proved instrumental in OpenAI’s ultimate success.

Fast forward nearly seven years, and in November 2022, OpenAI introduced the first iteration of ChatGPT, a chatbot that quickly captivated the world. Musk explained that OpenAI’s name reflects its commitment to open-source software. By embracing open-source principles, OpenAI strives to make its code freely accessible, allowing redistribution and modification—a deliberate departure from Google’s closed-source, profit-oriented approach.

Musk revealed that he frequently engaged in discussions about artificial intelligence with Google co-founder Larry Page. He expressed concern over Page’s seemingly casual attitude toward the potential risks of AI, even as Musk persistently urged caution. In 2014, Google’s acquisition of DeepMind Technologies, an AI research laboratory, raised Musk’s eyebrows. The idea of OpenAI challenging Google initially seemed futile, akin to an ant facing an elephant.

However, Musk’s apprehensions extend beyond Google’s influence. He voiced unease regarding OpenAI’s transition toward a for-profit, closed-source model, which echoes Google’s approach. Comparing this shift to an environmental organization transforming into a lumber company, Musk questioned the underlying motivations and control over potentially powerful AI systems.

Microsoft’s substantial investments in OpenAI since 2019 have also raised Musk’s concerns. He worries that Microsoft might wield more influence than the OpenAI leadership realizes, considering their rights to software and infrastructure crucial for running the inference system. Musk stressed that artificial intelligence represents a double-edged sword—an innovation capable of enriching human life immensely and posing existential risks if mishandled.

Reflecting these concerns, Musk and tech luminaries like Steve Wozniak signed an open letter advocating for a six-month moratorium on AI development following OpenAI’s GPT-4 launch. Although skeptical of its efficacy, Musk saw signing the letter as an opportunity to document his recommendation to pause AI development, even if its implementation seemed highly unlikely.

As the conversation around AI continues, Musk remains steadfast in his commitment to raising awareness about its potential dangers while acknowledging its transformative potential. With a small but non-zero probability of AI posing threats to humanity, Musk believes in calling attention to the risks while working towards creating a safe and abundant future.


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