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Elon Musk launches xAI in bid to take on OpenAI and build ‘safer’ artificial intelligence

The Tesla billionaire says his AI will help humans 'understand the true nature of the universe'.

By Matthew Gooding

Elon Musk has launched his own artificial intelligence lab, xAI, and says he has recruited an experienced team to build a “safer” version of the AI tools that have been developed by the likes of ChatGPT-maker OpenAI.

Elon Musk has announced a new AI company, xAI. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

The Tesla billionaire revealed details of the new project in a live Spaces broadcast on his social media platform, Twitter, on Wednesday evening. He says its goal is to “understand the true nature of the universe”.

How Elon Musk’s xAI will take on OpenAI

Generative AI has become a hot topic since the launch of ChatGPT last year. While the capabilities of the chatbot, and other similar systems, to produce detailed and accurate text and images from simple prompts have wowed consumers and businesses alike, they have also caused controversy due to their potential for generating hate speech or harmful deep fake images.

Musk has previously said he would launch TruthGPT, an AI that would be designed to further human knowledge of the universe. He appears ready to make good on his word, and told his Spaces event that his company would build a “maximally curious” AI.

“If it tried to understand the true nature of the universe, that’s actually the best thing that I can come up with from an AI safety standpoint,” Musk said. “I think it is going to be pro-humanity from the standpoint that humanity is just much more interesting than not-humanity.”

He added that he believes superintelligence, the point at which an AI is smarter than humans, is five or six years away.

Musk has certainly recruited an experienced team for the new company, with a trio of ex-Googlers: Igor Babuschkin, who was an engineer at the company’s UK AI lab DeepMind; Tony Wu, Christian Szegedy, along with an ex-Microsoft man, Greg Yang. The xAI website says the company will be advised by Dan Hendrycks, director of the US non-profit Center for AI Safety.

The xAI website says it is “a separate company” from Musk’s X Corp, but that it “will work closely with X (Twitter), Tesla, and other companies to make progress towards our mission”.

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It will hold a Spaces of its own on Friday, where more details are expected to be revealed.

Musk and AI: the story so far

xAI’s system is expected to go up Google’s chatbot, Bard, as well as OpenAI’s products, many of which have been incorporated into Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity suite over recent months.

Musk was a co-founder of OpenAI in 2015, but stepped down from the company’s board three years later. It has since been reported that he was unhappy with the progress the company was making in comparison to Google’s AI research, and offered to take it over and run it himself. The proposal was rejected by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and the company’s other co-founders. OpenAI has subsequently gained tens of billions in funding from Microsoft.

Since then Musk has become something of an AI critic, signing an open letter earlier this year, alongside many other tech luminaries, calling for a “pause” on AI development while the ethical implications of the technology were considered.

Read more: AI an ‘extinction risk’ for humanity, tech leaders say

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