Elon Musk, the visionary inventor and businessman behind Tesla and SpaceX, has always kept his plate full of work and big ideas, but it seems even he has found his limit. In addition to Tesla and SpaceX, he also backed OpenAI, a nonprofit organization which develops open-source AI algorithms. However, Musk tweeted last weekend that he has left the organization, which developed an AI text generator, among other algorithms. He cited problems at Tesla and SpaceX and disagreements with the rest of the OpenAI team as reasons for his departure:
Also, Tesla was competing for some of same people as OpenAI & I didn’t agree with some of what OpenAI team wanted to do. Add that all up & it was just better to part ways on good terms.
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— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 17, 2019
Even though most of Elon Musk’s investments revolve around his own companies, he has always demonstrated interest in other things, such as The Boring Company and inventing a flame thrower which could serve as an ideal weapon during a zombie apocalypse (if there should ever be one). Three years ago, he collaborated with Y Combinator president Sam Altman to co-found OpenAI.
Musk’s departure from OpenAI comes as a surprise. He has always warned about how dangerous AI could be for humanity, so it makes sense that he would want to work on safe AI. Among other things, the organization developed an AI text generator, which it announced last week.
In the announcement last week, OpenAI also demonstrated that its AI algorithm could generate precise, convincing paragraphs after it was given a small written sample consisting of one or two sentences. The organization decided not to publish the algorithm in its entirety for fear that it could be used to spread fake news. Given the convincing tone of the AI text generator, it could indeed create fake viral headlines if it falls into the wrong hands. That would have disastrous consequences.
There are benefits from the text generator, however. If it is used properly, such text generators could serve as writing assistants for journalists and writers around the world. Nonetheless, much research and work much happen before we can see that happen.
It’s unclear whether Musk will work with OpenAI again at some point, but his tweet confirms that he doesn’t have any management power at the organization any longer.
Musk has never hidden his dissatisfaction about the rapid pace of AI development. He has tweeted and spoken about it on numerous occasions.
Worth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 3, 2014
At the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department’s Centennial Symposium in 2014, Musk warned that AI could be an “existential threat.”
“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence,” Musk said at the symposium, according to The Washington Post. “Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.”
Perhaps one reason Elon Musk decided to stop working with the organization which developed the AI text generator was because it could be used for nefarious purposes.