April 17, 2024


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OpenAI founder and CEO Sam Altman dismissively addressed Elon Musk’s latest venture into the AI industry on Monday at OpenAI’s inaugural Dev Day during a press briefing.

This comes in the wake of Musk’s strategic announcement of his new AI product, Grok, from his latest company, xAI.

Altman brushed off the potential threat from Musk’s new company, stating, “Elon’s gonna Elon,” in response to a question from VentureBeat about Musk’s timing of announcements. 

The snappy exchange captured the growing rancor between Altman and Musk, who have gone from collaborators to combatants in the race to dominate one of Silicon Valley’s most lucrative new markets — generative AI.

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A bitter falling out

Musk was an early investor in OpenAI when it launched in 2015, committing substantial funding alongside other tech luminaries like Reid Hoffman. The venture attracted top AI experts, pulling them away from established tech giants and prestigious academic institutions.

But Altman and Musk reportedly had a bitter falling out in 2018 over the direction of OpenAI, with Musk proposing to take control of the lab to turbocharge its progress. Altman and the OpenAI board rebuffed Musk, who then revoked much of his pledged funding as he withdrew from the company.

“I am the reason OpenAI exists,” Musk later asserted during interview with CNBC. “It wouldn’t exist without me.”

Musk tries to steal OpenAI’s spotlight

On Friday, Musk was once again needling his former protégé. Just days before OpenAI’s inaugural developer conference in San Francisco, Musk unveiled his new startup xAI and its first product, an AI chatbot named Grok.

The timing was a bald attempt to upstage OpenAI’s event and spark doubts about the progress of products like ChatGPT, the viral conversational app that has supercharged demand for generative AI. Musk tweeted again about Grok moments before Altman went on stage for his first Dev Day keynote.

OpenAI unfazed by Musk’s antics

If Altman was chagrined by Musk’s ploy, he did not show it. The OpenAI chief rattled off a series of ambitious new offerings from his company, including the release of GPT-4 Turbo and Assistant API.

The suite of new tools showed that OpenAI aims to press its advantage over Musk and other rivals in the white-hot AI arms race. By nonchalantly shrugging off Musk’s needling, Altman signaled that OpenAI will dictate the pace of progress, not the other way around.

OpenAI’s announcements underscore the company’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of AI technology. Musk, on the other hand, has chosen a different approach with Grok by focusing on real-time data and efficiency complemented with a touch of humor. This feature could potentially set Grok apart in an industry that often leans towards the serious side.

The AI Arms race heats up

Still, Musk’s virtually limitless resources ensure xAI will remain a threat. The swashbuckling billionaire has disrupted multiple industries and appears determined to catch up to OpenAI’s head start in AI.

For now, Altman seems content to subtly poke the bear while his researchers push the boundaries of what machines can do with language and creativity. But the passive-aggressive rivalry between these two ambitious leaders guarantees the contest to own the future of AI will only intensify.

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