Elon Musk Is Creating an OpenAI Competitor

ChatGPT and GPT-4 developer OpenAI has a new competitor. It’s Elon Musk.

News broke Friday (April 14) that the firebrand owner of Tesla, Twitter and SpaceX, among other companies, has been quietly amassing the processors and engineers to create artificial intelligence (AI) tech to rival that of the revolutionary ChatGPT and GPT-4 large language models (LLMs) that have regulators and humanists in a tizzy and corporations seeking ways to put the technology to work.

“For the new project, Musk has secured thousands of high-powered GPU processors from Nvidia, according to people with knowledge of the move,” Financial Times reported. “GPUs are the high-end chips required for Musk’s aim to build a large language model — AI systems capable of ingesting enormous amounts of content and producing humanlike writing or realistic imagery, similar to the technology that powers ChatGPT.”

Per the report, Musk “is recruiting engineers from top AI labs including DeepMind, according to those with knowledge of his plans, who said he began to explore the idea of a rival company earlier this year in response to the rapid progress of OpenAI,” and has thus far engaged former DeepMind employee Igor Babuschkin “and roughly half a dozen other engineers.”

The Many Moods of Musk

While not entirely unexpected by some AI pundits, Musk’s dive into generative AI as his next world to conquer is ironic. He was among the first signatories to an open letter published by AI watchdog group Future of Life Institute in March on the potential dangers of AI.

That letter read, in part: “Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders. 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 calls for “all AI labs to immediately pause for at least six months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.”

Perhaps Musk will time the announcement of his new and as-yet-unnamed AI venture until August when that proposed six-month moratorium passes.

The other well-known irony is that Musk is a co-founder of OpenAI. He departed in 2018, purportedly over disagreements with his co-founders over commercializing its powerful product, which they have now done.

“A Musk-backed generative AI venture would enter an increasingly crowded and well-financed market,” FT reported. “Tech giants Microsoft, Google and Amazon are jostling with startups such as OpenAI, Anthropic, Adept and StabilityAI, [which] have together raised billions of dollars in recent months.”

The news comes days after the Tuesday (April 11) Request for Information (RFC) issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) “to advance its efforts to ensure artificial intelligence (AI) systems work as claimed — and without causing harm. The insights gathered through this RFC will inform the [President Joe] Biden administration’s ongoing work to ensure a cohesive and comprehensive federal government approach to AI-related risks and opportunities,” according to an NTIA blog post.

The post added: “Just as food and cars are not released into the market without proper assurance of safety, so too AI systems should provide assurance to the public, government and businesses that they are fit for purpose.”