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OpenAI: Musk Tried to Gain “Absolute Control” Over the Company

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Elon Musk

After being sued by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, cutting-edge AI giant OpenAI has issued an official response, stating that Musk once attempted to gain “absolute control” over the company.

On the evening of March 5th local time, OpenAI published an article on its official website titled “OpenAI and Musk,” vigorously refuting Musk’s accusations. The company announced its intention to take action to rebut “all of Elon’s accusations,” revealing that Musk had actually supported OpenAI’s establishment of a profit-oriented organizational structure and had attempted to merge OpenAI with Tesla to gain “absolute control” over the company.

OpenAI emphasized that its mission is to “ensure that General Artificial Intelligence (AGI) benefits all of humanity.” In pursuing this goal, the company realized that significantly more resources were needed to build AGI than originally planned. Therefore, Elon and the then company executives realized that, to obtain these resources, OpenAI needed a profit-oriented entity.

OpenAI also provided five email exchanges between Musk and the company’s co-founders, Sam Altman, Ilya Sutskever, and Greg Brockman, to demonstrate that Musk agreed to OpenAI raising more funds and gradually abandoning the open-source release plan for its products.

For example, when OpenAI was founded at the end of 2015, Brockman and Altman initially planned to raise $100 million. In an email, Musk wrote, “We need to propose a much larger number than $100 million to avoid sounding hopeless… I think we should claim that we have commitments of $1 billion… I will cover the full amount not provided by others.”

In 2018, Musk also forwarded an article to Sutskever and Brockman, suggesting that OpenAI should be attached to Tesla, stating that Tesla was the only way OpenAI could compete against Google.

It is worth noting that Altman, Sutskever, and Brockman are all listed as authors of the OpenAI article. In addition to these three, the other two individuals listed in the authorship, John Schulman and Wojciech Zaremba, are also co-founders of OpenAI.

Musk's Email

In 2018, Musk wrote in an email to Sutskever and Brockman that Tesla was the only way for OpenAI to potentially compete against Google.

Regarding Musk’s resignation from the board in 2018, OpenAI wrote, “To advance the company’s mission, we discussed establishing a profit-oriented organizational structure. Elon proposed at that time that we merge with Tesla or gain absolute control over the company. When Elon left OpenAI, he said that Google/DeepMind needed a worthy competitor and he was going to achieve this himself. He said he would support us in finding our own way.”

OpenAI also “hit back,” stating that after deciding to establish a profit-oriented entity, Musk proposed at the end of 2017 to gain majority ownership of the entity and control over the initial board, and become CEO. During these discussions, Musk suspended funding to OpenAI. During that time, OpenAI relied solely on Silicon Valley investor Reid Hoffman to bridge the funding gap to pay salaries and operational expenses.

In the final paragraph of the main text, OpenAI wrote, “We are saddened to see where someone we once deeply admired has ended up – someone who inspired us to aim for higher goals, then said we would fail, started a competitor, and then sued us as we started to make real progress towards OpenAI’s mission without him.”

These counterattacks from OpenAI have made Musk’s lawsuit against OpenAI more complicated. Just last week, on February 29th, Musk filed a lawsuit in the San Francisco Superior Court, suing OpenAI and Altman for breach of contract.

In the lawsuit, Musk alleges that Altman and OpenAI violated an agreement reached when the AI research company was established, which was to develop technology for the benefit of humanity rather than profit. He demands that OpenAI be restored to open-source status and seeks a court order to prohibit OpenAI, President Greg Brockman and Altman, as well as Microsoft, from profiting from the company’s AGI technology.

In Musk’s lawsuit, he repeatedly emphasizes that OpenAI’s relationship with tech giant Microsoft has undermined the company’s original goal of promoting public and open-source AGI. However, in this counterattack article, OpenAI did not respond to the relationship with Microsoft.

Previously, senior executives at OpenAI also expressed doubts about Musk’s lawsuit within the company. On March 1st, according to reports, in an internal memo at OpenAI, company executives questioned Musk’s accusations. Altman referred to Musk as his “hero” in the memo and expressed nostalgia for the previous Musk.

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