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Elon Musk Sues Microsoft-backed OpenAI And Its CEO, Sam Altman

Elon Musk has filed a lawsuit against OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, alleging a violation of the principles established when he co-founded the company in 2015.

The lawsuit, also naming OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, asserts that the company has strayed from its original nonprofit, open-source mission. Instead of focusing on advancing humanity’s welfare, as initially intended, the lawsuit claims that OpenAI is now prioritizing profit maximization, particularly for its major investor, Microsoft.

OpenAI and Microsoft have been approached for comment but have not yet responded.

Originally established to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI) capable of performing any human task, OpenAI was also intended to operate as a nonprofit entity, meaning it would not pursue monetary gain.

According to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco, Elon Musk, along with Sam Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman, agreed to establish OpenAI under these conditions. Musk departed from the company three years later.

The lawsuit aims to compel OpenAI to adhere to its founding agreement and return to its mission of developing AGI for the benefit of humanity rather than serving the personal interests of its founders and Microsoft.

This legal action follows a report by the Wall Street Journal that US regulators have initiated an investigation into ChatGPT’s creator, questioning whether investors were misled. This investigation stems from internal conflicts at OpenAI in November 2023, which resulted in Altman’s temporary removal from the board and subsequent reinstatement.

Microsoft, deeply involved in the dispute, even offered employment to OpenAI staff who left the company during the turmoil. Musk expressed concern about the situation on X (formerly Twitter).

The lawsuit contends that recent events underscore Microsoft’s growing influence over OpenAI. It alleges that OpenAI’s technology, including GPT-4, is closed-source to serve Microsoft’s commercial interests.

Microsoft initially invested $1 billion in OpenAI in 2019, shortly after the AI firm transitioned from nonprofit to for-profit status with a “capped profit” structure. This investment expanded into a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar partnership in January 2023 following the launch of ChatGPT.

Regulators in the UK, EU, and US are now scrutinizing this partnership.

Effective altruism, a philosophy embraced by several tech billionaires like Musk, seeks to address the world’s most pressing issues without personal or commercial gain. OpenAI’s departure from this principle with its profit-oriented approach reportedly irked Musk and others within the company.

The lawsuit also alleges that OpenAI withheld details about the design of its latest AI model, the GPT-4, primarily for commercial reasons.

Musk launched his AI startup, xAI, in July 2023, with a mission to “understand reality.” In November of the same year, xAI introduced Grok, a chatbot with a touch of humor, to compete with ChatGPT.

Among the desired outcomes of the lawsuit, Musk’s lawyers seek an order for OpenAI to continue sharing information about its AI developments with the public.

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