Musk sues OpenAI for breach of contract for becoming for-profit company

Elon Musk sued OpenAI and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, alleging that the company responsible for the popular chatbot ChatGPT breached its contract by ditching its initial goal of helping humanity to become profitable.

The lawsuit, filed in a San Francisco court late Thursday, notes that Musk was approached by Altman in 2015 for his assistance in founding a nonprofit group dedicated to studying and creating artificial intelligence and artificial general intelligence, or AGI, products that would benefit humanity. Now, the company has abandoned the mission and put a heavy emphasis on profits and helping one of its prominent investors, Microsoft, get the edge over its competitors, Musk argued.

“To this day, OpenAI Inc.’s website continues to profess that its charter is to ensure that AGI ‘benefits all of humanity.’ In reality, however, OpenAI Inc. has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft,” the suit reads.

Musk helped found OpenAI in 2015, when it was a nonprofit laboratory focused on preparing for AI models that would be as functional as humans, but he stepped down in 2018 due to a conflict of interest with his main company, Tesla.

“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,” Musk’s lawyers argued.

Musk’s lawyers requested a jury trial and for Altman and fellow OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman to pay back all of the profits OpenAI has made.

The lawsuit also notes the conflict within OpenAI’s leadership in November, when the company’s board stripped Altman of his role over concerns about the risks of AI. That decision eventually led to a mass rebellion internally, the board’s removal, and Altman’s subsequent reinstatement.

“The public is still in the dark regarding what exactly the Board’s ‘deliberative review process’ revealed that resulted in the initial firing of Mr. Altman,” the complaint notes. “However, one thing is clear to Mr. Musk and the public at large: OpenAI has abandoned its ‘irrevocable’ nonprofit mission in the pursuit of profit.”

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The Tesla CEO has warned against the threat AI poses to the world, including in an appearance before Congress in September in which he asked lawmakers to pass regulations due to the “potential danger to the public.”

Musk launched his own AI startup in July to compete with OpenAI and other chatbot developers. This includes the release of Grok, his “anti-woke” chatbot, on X in November.

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