Elon Musk and Sam Altman founded OpenAI together, but now they publicly trade barbs. Here's the history of their relationship and feud.
Elon Musk helped found OpenAI, but he has frequently criticized the company in recent years.
In March, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman called some of the billionaire's assertions "not true."
Here's a history of Musk's relationship with OpenAI and its CEO.
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.
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 Open AI reads.
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.
In March, 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.
In 2019, Musk shared some insight on his decision to leave, saying one of the reasons was that he "didn't agree" with where OpenAI was headed.
"I had to focus on solving a painfully large number of engineering & manufacturing problems at Tesla (especially) & SpaceX," he tweeted. "Also, Tesla was competing for some of same people as OpenAI & I didn't agree with some of what OpenAI team wanted to do. Add that all up & it was just better to part ways on good terms."
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.
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.
Musk was reportedly furious about ChatGPT's success, Semafor reported in March.
In November, the chatbot took off and garnered millions of users for its ability to do everything from write essays to craft basic code.
In February, 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.
Musk repeated this assertion a month later.
"I'm still confused as to how a non-profit to which I donated ~$100M somehow became a $30B market cap for-profit. If this is legal, why doesn't everyone do it?" he tweeted.
Altman recently 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 on a recent 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", Insider
Altman also referred to Musk as one of his heroes despite the fact Musk is "obviously attacking" OpenAI on Twitter.
In a March 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, Insider
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.
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.
Source: Future of Life Institute, Insider
Musk has since unfollowed Altman on Twitter; 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, Insider
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