UPDATED 20:04 EST / JULY 12 2023


Elon Musk is leading a new AI startup that aims to understand the universe and compete with ChatGPT

Elon Musk today revealed that he has founded yet another company, an artificial intelligence startup called xAI Corp. that will compete against ChatGPT maker OpenAI LP, Google LLC and others.

It’s unclear what the startup’s specific objectives are or what kind of AI it intends to focus on, but on its website it boldly proclaims that its goal is to “understand the true nature of the universe.”

The startup boasts several luminaries among its team members, including alumni from companies such as Google Research, Microsoft Research, OpenAI, DeepMind Inc., Twitter Inc. and Tesla Inc.

Musk’s AI plans were first reported in April by the Financial Times, which claimed he was intending to build a large language model to compete with OpenAI’s GPT-4. It also claimed Musk had managed to secure thousands of graphics processing units from Nvidia Corp. that are required to train the most advanced LLMs. Later that month, Musk told Fox News Channel about his plans for a new AI tool called TruthGPT, explaining his belief that many of the biggest players in AI have prioritized “politically incorrect” AI systems.

It’s notable that Musk was one of the original backers of OpenAI, whose ChatGPT model was responsible for making generative AI a household name. The impact of ChatGPT, which can have in-depth discussions on almost any topic in a humanlike way, has been massive. Since its launch last year, the technology has become popular for use cases such as helping students to write their homework, performing customer service tasks, assisting coders and more.

However, Musk has not been a part of OpenAI’s success, as his relationship with the company soured some years ago. Recently, he criticized ChatGPT for having a liberal bias, saying that we instead need a “TruthGPT.”

The Tesla and SpaceX Corp. chief executive has also been critical of OpenAI’s cozy relationship with Microsoft Corp. “It does seem weird that something can be a nonprofit, open source and somehow transform itself into a for-profit, closed source,” he told CNBC in a recent interview.

Musk’s company will be advised by Dan Hendrycks, who is executive director of the Center for AI Safety – the nonprofit organization that drafted an open letter calling for a pause on AI development that was signed by hundreds of technology leaders, including Musk himself. The letter has gathered more than 33,000 signatures to date.

xAI’s website reveals very little about its plans

Charles King of Pund-IT Inc. said Musk has managed to put together some strong and exceptional talents for xAI’s fledgling team, and noted his aspirations to build a “maximum truth-seeking AI that tries to understand the nature of the universe.” However, he said the company will likely struggle to outdo its more established rivals.

“What xAI has done pales compared to the billions of dollars in investments, the hundreds of AI researchers, and the massive computing resources that some companies, including Microsoft, Google, IBM and many others are leveraging to build generative AI,” King said. “Considering xAI’s current condition and the state of the competition, it’s difficult to take Musk’s announcement seriously.”

Constellation Research Inc. analyst Holger Mueller was more optimistic, saying that Musk appears to have put together a strong team and has the experience and knowledge to make a difference. “Musk is getting back into AI a few years after he exited the business because he knows what everyone else knows. AI will be transformative for the entire economy so he has to be a part of it.”

Greg Yang, who is named as one of several co-founders of xAI alongside Musk, said in a tweet that the company will focus on the mathematics of deep learning and attempt to develop a “theory of everything for large neural networks.” The aim is to take AI “to the next level,” Yang said. The company will reveal more about its plans when it hosts a live Twitter Spaces chat on Friday.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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