AI

Elon Musk sues OpenAI and Sam Altman over ‘betrayal’ of nonprofit AI mission

Comment

Elon Musk sues OpenAI and Sam Altman over 'betrayal' of non-profit AI mission
Image Credits: Michael Kovac / Vanity Fair / Getty Images

Elon Musk has sued OpenAI, its co-founders Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, and its affiliated entities, alleging the ChatGPT makers have breached their original contractual agreements by pursuing profits instead of the nonprofit’s founding mission to develop AI that benefits humanity.

Musk, a co-founder and early backer of OpenAI, claims Altman and Brockman convinced him to help found and bankroll the startup in 2015 with promises it would be a nonprofit focused on countering the competitive threat from Google. The founding agreement required OpenAI to make its technology “freely available” to the public, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit, filed in a court in San Francisco late Thursday, says that OpenAI, the world’s most valuable AI startup, has shifted to a for-profit model focused on commercializing its AGI research after partnering with Microsoft, the world’s most valuable company, which has invested about $13 billion into the startup.

“In reality, however, 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,” the lawsuit adds. “This was a stark betrayal of the Founding Agreement.”

The lawsuit follows Musk airing concerns about OpenAI’s shift in priorities in the past year. According to the legal complaint, Musk donated over $44 million to the nonprofit between 2016 and September 2020. For the first several years, he was the largest contributor to OpenAI, the lawsuit adds. Musk, who left OpenAI’s board in 2018, has been offered a stake in the for-profit arm of the startup but has refused to accept it over a principled stand, he said earlier.

X, the social network owned by Musk, last year launched Grok, a rival to ChatGPT.

Altman has also addressed some of Musk’s concerns in the past, including the close ties with Microsoft. “I like the dude. I think he’s totally wrong about this stuff,” he said of Musk’s criticisms at a conference last year. “He can sort of say whatever he wants but I’m like proud of what we’re doing and I think we’re going to make a positive contribution to the world and I try to stay above all that.”

OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT in late 2022 sparked an AI arms race, with rivals still scrambling to match its uncannily human-like responses. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella landed a gloved jab at the rest of the industry last month. “We have the best model today … even with all the hoopla, one year after, GPT4 is better,” he said. “We are waiting for the competition to arrive. It will arrive, I’m sure, but the fact [is] that we have the … leading LLM out there.”

An email exchange between Musk and Altman, presented as evidence in the lawsuit. Image Credits: TechCrunch/screenshot

The Thursday lawsuit alleges close alignment between Microsoft and OpenAI, citing a recent interview with Nadella. Amid a dramatic leadership shake-up at OpenAI late last year, Nadella stated that if “OpenAI disappeared tomorrow … we have all the IP rights and all the capability. We have the people, we have the compute, we have the data, we have everything. We are below them, above them, around them.” The lawsuit presents this as evidence that OpenAI has strongly served Microsoft’s interests.

The lawsuit also centers around OpenAI’s GPT-4, which Musk claims constitutes AGI — an AI whose intelligence is at par, if not higher, than humans. He alleges OpenAI and Microsoft have improperly licensed GPT-4 despite agreeing that OpenAI’s AGI capabilities would remain dedicated to humanity.

Through the lawsuit, Musk is seeking to compel OpenAI to adhere to its original mission and bar them from monetizing technologies developed under its nonprofit for the benefit of OpenAI executives or partners like Microsoft.

The suit also requests the court rule that AI systems like GPT-4 and other advanced models in development constitute artificial general intelligence that reaches beyond licensing agreements. In addition to injunctions forcing OpenAI’s hand, Musk asks for accounting and potential restitution of donations meant to fund its public-minded research should the court find it now operates for private gain.

“Mr. Altman hand-picked a new Board that lacks similar technical expertise or any substantial background in AI governance, which the previous board had by design. Mr. D’Angelo, a tech CEO and entrepreneur, was the only member of the previous board to remain after Mr. Altman’s return. The new Board consisted of members with more experience in profit-centric enterprises or politics than in AI ethics and governance,” the lawsuit adds.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

15 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

17 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android