Elon Musk, who once fought in court for the right to call himself cofounder of Tesla, just disowned one of his most famous creations.
The entrepreneur best known for running the carmaker alongside Twitter and SpaceX in grueling 120-hour workweeks is notable for another feat that receives less attention: helping launch the company behind ChatGPT.
The revolutionary A.I. chatbot, first revealed on Nov. 30 by parent OpenAI, has sparked a fierce social debate over artificial intelligence thanks to the remarkable ability of ChatGPT’s neural network to mimic human thought.
Yet after Microsoft’s latest multibillion-dollar investment in OpenAI last month, Musk is now distancing himself from the company.
The serial CEO said it no longer resembled anything like what he had once co-founded in December 2015. According to Musk, it was designed to be an open-source nonprofit, which was the very reason why it was dubbed OpenAI.
“Now it has become a closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft,” he posted to Twitter. “Not what I intended at all.”
OpenAI was created as an open source (which is why I named it “Open” AI), non-profit company to serve as a counterweight to Google, but now it has become a closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 17, 2023
Not what I intended at all.
According to its website, OpenAI has been organized since March 2019 as hybrid with a nonprofit foundation that governs the limited partnership company and has ultimate control over intellectual property. This allows it to “raise investment capital and attract employees with startup-like equity.”
At this point, though, Musk has little means to effect change in his own creation apart from taking to the bully pulpit.
By his own admission, Musk no longer owns a stake in OpenAI. He is not on the board, nor does he control it in any way. (Musk did, however, have a relationship with OpenAI director Shivon Zilis, with whom he recently fathered twins.)
OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request from Fortune for comment, but its charter says the company is committed to ensuring its work in A.I. “benefits all of humanity.”
Risks from A.I. akin to harnessing the power of the atom
Musk has said he cofounded OpenAI in the hopes it would serve as a counterweight to Google. At the time, he felt the tech giant was not concerned enough about the risks that came with the technology.
On Wednesday, Musk subsequently renewed his call for a regulatory agency to provide oversight of A.I. in the spirit of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration over vehicle safety or the Federal Aviation Administration over airplane safety.
“It is, I think, actually a bigger risk to society than cars or planes or medicine. And this may slow down A.I. a little bit, but I think that might also be a good thing,” he told the World Government Summit in Dubai.
Musk urged policymakers not to repeat the mistakes of the past by first waiting until a tragedy strikes before acting.
“What are the biggest risks to the future of civilization? A.I. is both a positive and a negative: It has great promise and great capability, but with that also comes great danger,” he said. “With the discovery of nuclear physics, you had nuclear power generation, but also nuclear bombs.”
Learn how to navigate and strengthen trust in your business with The Trust Factor, a weekly newsletter examining what leaders need to succeed. Sign up here.