Elon Musk just launched his own AI company, xAI

Credit: Trevor Cokley/Apex/Alamy
Elon Musk waits outside Arnold Hall before speaking to cadets on Thursday, April 7, 2022 at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colo., USA.

Elon Musk is adding yet another name to the growing list of startups he has launched with the announcement of xAI, a new artificial intelligence company whose stated goal is to “understand the true nature of the universe.”

Besides that ambitious and philosophical goal, little has been revealed about what the company will be working on, though some industry observers believe Musk is planning on creating a competitor to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the AI chatbot that has taken the world by storm over the past six months.

That belief is largely based on comments Musk has made in which he has disapproved of what he says are the political biases of the current generation of chatbots.

In an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News Channel earlier this year, Musk said the current crop of chatbots are “politically correct,” and added he was planning to start a product called “TruthGPT,” which he described as a “maximum truth-seeking AI” that “cares about understanding the universe.”

xAI’s team includes a number of prominent artificial intelligence experts who hail from DeepMind, Google Research, Microsoft Research, OpenAI, Tesla and the University of Toronto.

The company is being advised by Dan Hendrycks, Director of the Center for AI Safety, the organization which last month issued a single-sentence statement, signed by numerous AI experts, declaring that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

Musk was among the co-founders of OpenAI and an initial board member when the company launched in 2015. He parted ways with the AI startup in 2018, ostensibly over a conflict of interest with his work at Tesla, though recent news reports have suggested he may have left over a disagreement with CEO Sam Altman over the direction of the company.

Earlier this year, Musk was among the leading signatories of a letter calling for a six-month halt on the development of AI tools more powerful than ChatGPT-4, to allow for the formation of rules and regulations to guide the development of the technology.

“AI labs and independent experts should use this pause to jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts. These protocols should ensure that systems adhering to them are safe beyond a reasonable doubt,” the letter stated.

However, during a live Twitter chat on Wednesday (July 12), following the announcement of xAI, Musk said his call for a moratorium on AI research no longer seemed realistic.

“If I could put a pause on AI or really advanced AI, superintelligence, I would. It doesn’t seem that is realistic,” Musk said.

He argued that it’s possible to build an AI that is curious about humanity and the universe, and isn’t dangerous.

“It’s important for us to worry about a Terminator future to avoid a Terminator future,” he said, referring to the film franchise about an apocalyptic future in which AI machines have conquered humanity.

“For an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.”

Elon Musk

Musk has been issuing warnings for years about the technology’s harmful potential.

In 2018, he warned that artificial intelligence could lead to the rise of an “immortal dictator” from whose grasp humanity would not be able to escape.

“At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die,” he said in an interview for the documentary Do You Trust This Computer?

“But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.”

xAI is now one of numerous companies that Musk has founded or co-founded, including EV maker Tesla, aerospace firm SpaceX, tunnel construction firm The Boring Company, and X.com, an online bank that would eventually become one of the building blocks of PayPal.

Some details on xAI’s activities could be unveiled on Friday, when the company’s leadership team will take questions from the public in a Twitter Spaces forum.Music Business Worldwide

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