No, Grok is not a Star Trek character. It’s Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk’s latest attempt to disrupt the world as we know it, and it might actually be as quirky and unpredictable as Musk himself.
The Tesla chief executive owns X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Musk has big dreams for X, as he plans to transform it into a super-app next year. If all goes according to plan, X will be a go-to spot for dating, personal finance, shopping and much more.
However, X has been a flop so far from a financial standpoint under Musk’s leadership. He shelled out $44 billion for the social-media app, and now it’s worth just $19 billion. Could an artificial intelligence (AI) infusion turn X into the tech juggernaut that Musk envisions?
Grok: The Beginning
Musk is many things. He’s unpredictable, sometimes charming and possibly a genius. However, above all else, Musk is hyper-competitive.
Not to toot my own horn, but as soon as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) invested tens of billions of dollars into OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI chatbot technology, I knew it wouldn’t be long before Musk would roll out a competing business venture. In fact, this prediction came to pass in July:
I construed “to understand reality” as “to crush all competitors in this generative AI thing that everybody’s talking about now,” but that’s just my own translation. A more cynical commentator might assume that xAI isn’t much different from Musk’s other self-indulgent non-Tesla ventures, such as SpaceX and the ridiculously named Boring Company.
In any case, here is Musk’s — er, I mean xAI’s — explanation of what Grok is supposed to be:
There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, does the world really need a chatbot that “has real-time knowledge of the world via the X platform”? This seems to suggest that if people spread misinformation on X (imagine that!), this will inform Grok’s view of the world and reality.
Moreover, Grok is supposedly “designed to answer questions with a bit of wit and has a rebellious streak.” Is it just me, or does it sound like Grok is being programmed as a chatbot version of Musk himself?
Additionally, Grok only has “two months of training” under its digital belt, so don’t be surprised if it ends up like Bard, Google parent Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL, NASDAQ:GOOG) attempt at an answer to ChatGPT. As you may recall, Bard’s rollout was a botched embarrassment involving misinformation and lackluster user participation.
Would you pay for Grok?
Fast-forward to Nov. 3, and Musk got a “select group” ready for xAI’s release of the long-awaited Grok:
Musk is no stranger to braggadocio, so there’s really nothing surprising here. Still, I would love to hear Musk specify the “important respects” in which Grok is “the best that currently exists.”
Maybe we could all try out Grok for free and see if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be, like we can do with ChatGPT… or maybe not:
Evidently it will cost $16 per month to get X Premium+ and try out Grok. That’s not a bank-breaking amount of money, but would you pay for a beta version of a ChatGPT competitor?
I won’t subject you to the flood of mocking replies to Musk’s tweet, but I just had to share that one as it’s fairly representative. On the other hand, maybe Grok does have a distinct advantage over ChatGPT, which is humor. Evidently that’s what chatbot users need when searching for information and guidance:
Perhaps there’s a serious and even commendable message in this bizarre tweet. ChatGPT and other generative-AI applications may be powerful, but regulators wonder whether they’re being deployed responsibly. In Musk’s offbeat way, he seems to be signaling a more mindful deployment of gen-AI technology.
At least, that’s what I’m hoping. It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not in Musk’s world, as he has claimed to be the “the reason that OpenAI exists.”
Grok is here, and nothing is clear
Finally, Sunday rolled around and Grok was live:
I’m looking forward to the reviews, the praise, the criticism and the inevitable growing pains that each of Musk’s bold ventures must endure. As per usual, Musk will be the consummate pitchman in his defense of Grok:
I only hope that having “current information” doesn’t mean relying on X postings for data. In time, we’ll have more clarity on whether Grok is a step forward — or just another Musk misstep.