CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX Elon Musk (2-L) arrives to join other tech leaders attending the Senate bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) Insight Forum in the Russell Senate Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 13 September 2023. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS


Musk sues OpenAI for ‘stark betrayal of aim to benefit humanity’


Elon Musk, the US billionaire owner of X, Tesla and SpaceX, is suing OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman.

Musk claims Altman and OpenAI went beyond an initial mission statement by prioritising profits over “helping humanity”.

OpenAI, founded in 2015 to with a brief to benefit the public and promote open access to its technology, has allegedly strayed from its original mission, according to a lawsuit filed with a San Francisco court on February 29.

The lawsuit claims OpenAI’s latest AI model, GPT-4, has not been released to the public, contradicting the lab’s founding principles.

At the same time, Microsoft has made billion-dollar investments in OpenAI and the two companies have established “close” business relationships.

Microsoft has incorporated OpenAI’s GPT-4 technology into its software applications and created the AI application called Copilot, which is intended to assist users in automating a variety of tasks.

This is “a stark betrayal of the founding agreement,” Musk’s lawyers claim.

“Mr Altman caused OpenAI to radically depart from its original mission and historical practice of making its technology and knowledge available to the public,” the plaintiff’s statement read.

“GPT-4’s internal design was kept and remains a complete secret except to OpenAI – and, on information and belief, Microsoft.

“There are no scientific publications describing the design of GPT-4. Instead, there are just press releases bragging about performance,” it added.

The lawsuit claims that GPT-4, released in March 2023, is better at “reasoning than average humans”.

“It scored in the 90th percentile on the Uniform Bar Exam for lawyers. It scored in the 99th percentile on the GRE Verbal Assessment. It even scored a 77 per cent on the Advanced Sommelier examination,” the allegations state.

“At this time, Mr Altman caused OpenAI to radically depart from its original mission and historical practice of making its technology and knowledge available to the public.”

Instead of helping humanity, OpenAI’s tech is now primarily serving Microsoft’s commercial interests, the lawsuit claimed. GPT-4 “is now a de facto Microsoft proprietary algorithm,” it added, saying it was focused on “maximising profits”.

Musk apparently wants OpenAI to make its AI models open to the public and ban it from utilising its technology to advance the interests of Microsoft, its executives, or any other individual or business.

In addition, he has requested that OpenAI, Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman give back every penny they earned from their business interactions with Microsoft.

Along with Altman and Brockman, Musk co-founded OpenAI in 2015. The three men allegedly “pledged’ to turn the project into a non-profit organisation and make its technology “open source”.

The lawsuit seeks to force OpenAI to adhere to it’s alleged founding agreement and “return to its mission to develop AGI for the benefit of humanity”, rather than benefiting Altman, Brockman and Microsoft, which the plaintiff described as “the largest technology company in the world”.

In November 2023, Open AI was rocked by the firing of Altman and, pulling him back into the firm a little later, all but one board member who ousted him resigned from the board. That spurred much speculation, mainly about what might have been “ideological” motivations.

Researchers have since apparently grown more concerned that Altman is prioritising innovation over security.

A study article co-authored by board member Helen Toner for the policy research organisation within Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service (CSET), raised further concerns. She was allegedly reprimanded for that action by Altman.

The issue has come to light amid fears about risks connected to the growing power and abilities of Artificial Intelligence and its potentially nefarious utilisation.