Why Musk Files Lawsuit Against OpenAI and Sam Altman

Why Musk Files Lawsuit Against OpenAI and Sam Altman

Sam Altman, the CEO of Microsoft-backed OpenAI, and other executives are being sued by Elon Musk, who claims they have abandoned the company’s original goal of creating artificial intelligence “for the benefit of humanity broadly.”

In a lawsuit that was submitted to a San Francisco court on Thursday, Feb.29, Musk’s attorneys claimed that the tech billionaire had agreed to establish a nonprofit lab that would create artificial general intelligence for the “benefit of humanity” after being contacted in 2015 by Altman and Greg Brockman, the co-founder of OpenAI.

Four years after claiming that AI is “potentially more dangerous than nukes,” Musk, who co-founded OpenAI in 2015, resigned from the company’s board of directors in 2018.

Breach of Contract

Musk claimed a breach of contract, stating that Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman originally approached him to create an open-source, non-profit company. The startup, established in 2015, is now focused on turning a profit.

While recounting the founding of OpenAI, Musk said the three men had agreed to collaborate on artificial general intelligence (AGI), an idea that machines could handle tasks like humans but in a way that would “benefit humanity,”  according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit added that, to this day, OpenAI, Inc.‘s website continues to profess that its charter is to ensure that AGI benefits all of humanity.’ It continued by stating that, in reality, OpenAI, Inc. has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft.

Additionally, Musk claimed that OpenAI would work against Google as the latter was creating artificial intelligence (AI) for profit and would present serious risks. Rather, Musk claimed that OpenAI “set the founding agreement aflame” in 2023 when it unveiled its most potent language model, GPT-4, as essentially a Microsoft product.

Why Musk Files Lawsuit Against OpenAI and Sam Altman

Compelling OpenAI to Adhere to the Agreement

Musk’s lawyers said the lawsuit was submitted to compel OpenAI to adhere to the Founding Agreement and return to its mission to develop AGI for the benefit of humanity, not to personally benefit the individual defendants and the largest technology company in the world.

Recently, Microsoft announced a new partnership with French startup Mistral AI. However, the tech giant faces scrutiny from EU antitrust regulators over its reported $13 billion investment in OpenAI.

Furthermore, the U.S. tech company said on Monday, Feb.26, that it was investing in the company, regarded as Europe’s answer to OpenAI, to help it unlock “new commercial opportunities” and expand to global markets.

In addition, the billionaire requests a ruling that GPT-4 and a more sophisticated technology known as Q* would be deemed artificial intelligence (AGI) and fall outside of Microsoft’s OpenAI license.

Altman vs Musk

At a time when there’s so much excitement about the future of AI, this legal action pits two of the world’s most prominent tech leaders against each other.

Elon Musk has been a proponent of artificial intelligence since he resigned from the OpenAI board in 2018. He is the man behind SpaceX, Tesla, and X (formerly called Twitter), which he acquired for $44 billion in October 2022.

Altman’s relationship with OpenAI hasn’t been smooth. In November of last year, he was suddenly let go from the company in a move that shocked the tech community. A few days later, the American entrepreneur, one of the leading figures in the AI boom, returned to the firm.

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