OpenAI Is Not So Open: Elon Musk Sues ChatGPT’s Creator and Its CEO Sam Altman for Deviating From the Company’s “Non-Profit” Ethos

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Never before has the siren call of capitalism been as disruptive to a non-profit entity as OpenAI’s ongoing struggle to monetize its advancements in the AI sphere without compromising on its altruistic ethos. Elon Musk has now jumped into this melee by lobbing a lawsuit at ChatGPT’s creator entity and its CEO, Sam Altman.

In a high-profile lawsuit filed late on Thursday night, Elon Musk launched a complaint against Sam Altman and OpenAI for breaching the non-profit’s contract, promissory estoppel, and fiduciary duty by turning away from its dedication to bringing about an open-source artificial general intelligence, presumably all under Microsoft’s influence:

“OpenAI, Inc. has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft. Under its new board, it is not just developing but is actually refining an AGI to maximize profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity.”

While hammering on the closed-loop nature of OpenAI’s GPT-4 Large Language Model (LLM), Elon Musk’s complaint notes:

“And it is closed for propriety commercial reasons: Microsoft stands to make a fortune selling GPT-4 to the public, which would not be possible if OpenAI—as it is required to do—makes the technology freely available to the public.”

According to Musk, OpenAI’s non-profit character has been distorted by “a purely profit-driven CEO and a Board with inferior technical expertise in AGI and AI public policy.” Consequently, the CEO of Tesla has implored the court to grant an injunction to prevent Open AI, its President Gregory Brockman, its CEO Sam Altman, and Microsoft from profiting off the non-profit’s AI technology.

For the benefit of those who might not be aware, Elon Musk co-founded OpenAI but left its board in 2018. The CEO of Tesla is currently playing catch-up with the GPT-4 LLM via xAI’s Grok model.

Bear in mind that OpenAI is currently in a unique sort of partnership with Microsoft, which owns a 49 percent stake in the AI-focused enterprise. Back in January 2023, Microsoft invested $10 billion in OpenAI, bringing its total investments in the revolutionary company to $13 billion. In return for providing this funding, as well as access to its cloud-computing service Azure, Microsoft has received rights to 75 percent of OpenAI’s profits until the tech giant is able to recoup the entirety of its $13 billion investment. Thereafter, Microsoft will receive 49 percent of OpenAI’s profits until these returns reach the $92 billion mark, after which Microsoft’s shares will revert to OpenAI’s non-profit foundation.

Of course, in late 2023, the world witnessed a gripping days-long drama within OpenAI, one that saw Altman fired by the non-profit’s board for “not [being] consistently candid in his communications” with the directors. This step, however, unleashed a full-on internal revolt replete with numerous high-profile departures, which eventually paved the way for Sam Altman’s return as the CEO of the AI-focused enterprise on the back of an entirely new board and Microsoft’s not-so-subtle support.

It is widely believed that OpenAI’s previous board was not comfortable with the increasingly mercantile bent of Sam Altman under Microsoft’s tutelage. Others argue that the board was spooked by OpenAI’s extremely rapid progress in the AGI sphere.

Meanwhile, the SEC has also now launched an investigation into the claims made by OpenAI’s previous board, where the executive body had accused Altman of employing deceptive tactics. Of course, this investigation currently remains in the preliminary phase, and it is, as yet, unclear if any formal charges will materialize.

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