While Elon Musk recently launched an AI startup to compete with OpenAI, not long ago he co-founded the now famous company — maker of AI chatbots ChatGPT and GPT-4 — and helped it in significant ways.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman described Musk’s early role during a televised appearance In good company podcast this week.
“Elon was definitely a talent magnet and attention magnet, and he also has some real superpowers that were super helpful to us in those early days, aside from all that stuff,” Altman told host Nicolai Tangen.
He didn’t give any examples of those “superpowers,” but venture capitalist Marc Andreessen recently outlined the psychological traits that make Musk “the prime example” of an entrepreneur who “can’t turn it off.”
This year, Musk has expressed disgust at the direction OpenAI has taken, and in July he launched xAI, which he said is “definitely in competition” with Altman’s company. The loftier goal of xAI, in typical Musk style, is to “understand the true nature of the universe.” To that end, he has brought in top AI talent from Google, DeepMind, Microsoft and his own Tesla.
Musk left OpenAI’s board of directors in 2018. He had offered to lead the organization but walked away after being rejected, according to Semafor.
One of his strengths today is that he co-founded OpenAI as a nonprofit in 2015, but the company switched to a “capped profit” model in 2019 – the same year it received a $1 billion investment from Microsoft received, and more billions would follow.
Musk’s dissatisfaction with OpenAI became increasingly apparent earlier this year when the company’s valuation soared following the launch of ChatGPT, with the AI chatbot becoming one of the fastest adopted products of all time.
He tweeted in February: “OpenAI was created as an open source (that’s why I called it ‘Open’ AI), non-profit organization to serve as a counterbalance to Google, but now it has essentially become a closed source company with maximum profit controlled by Microsoft.”
While Altman admits that OpenAI has taken an unconventional path in many ways, he disputes this characterization of the partnership with Microsoft, as does Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. But Musk said in a May interview with CNBC: “I’m afraid Microsoft actually has more control than OpenAI’s leadership team realizes.”
He also complained in March about OpenAI switching from a nonprofit model after donating millions to it.
“I’m still confused as to how a nonprofit I donated ~$100 million to somehow became a $30 billion market cap for profit,” he says. tweeted. “If this is legal, why isn’t everyone doing it?” Doubts later arose about the actual amount he gave, but it seems clear that he donated millions of dollars to the then-nonprofit organization.
Altman’s comments on Musk are mixed. In May, Altman said during a speech in London that “learning from Elon about what is simply possible to do” had been “super valuable.”
But he told the Continuing with Kara Swisher podcast in March: “I mean, he’s a jerk, whatever else you want to say about him — he has a style that I wouldn’t want for myself.”