Recent days have seen ChatGPT creator OpenAI fire and then re-hire its chief executive, Sam Altman. Many of the circumstances of that decision still remain entirely mysterious, and it is not clear why OpenAI’s board removed Mr Altman.
Elon Musk co-founded OpenAI, as part of his response to concerns that artificial intelligence could prove dangerous to humanity. But he has been critical of its recent direction, including its turn towards operating for a profit and no longer open sourcing its work.
During the New York Times’s Dealbook conference, Mr Musk said that he had attempted to find out what happened behind the scenes at OpenAI, but had failed to do so. He had reached out to numerous people working at the company, including Ilya Sutskever, the OpenAI chief scientist and board member who is believed to have led the rebellion against Mr Altman, but had not heard anything.
But he suggested that the company had found “something dangerous” that had caused Mr Sutskever to be concerned. He said that the most likely scenario was a worrying breakthrough that had led the company to try and avoid the danger.
He was asked by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin whether he meant that he thought something dangerous had been discovered within the company. Mr Musk said that would be his guess.
In the same interview, Mr Musk once again criticised OpenAI’s move away from the open source and non-profit principles that it had been founded with.
He also suggested that artificial intelligence companies were lying if they claimed their artificial intelligence systems were not trained on people’s data. But he said that any lawsuits over the issue will not be settled before we have a “digital god”, and would therefore be irrelevant.
His profanity-laced remarks followed a moment of contrition in a New York Times DealBook Summit interview, as he first said “I’m sorry” for a tweet that agreed with an anti-Jewish post on X on Nov. 15.
Musk has faced a torrent of criticism since he on Nov. 15 agreed with a user who falsely claimed Jewish people were stoking hatred against white people, saying the user who referenced the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory was speaking “the actual truth.”
On Wednesday Musk said he had “handed a loaded gun” to detractors, describing his post as possibly the worst he had made during a history of messages that included many “foolish” ones.
The Tesla CEO bristled at the idea that he was antisemitic and said that advertisers who left X, formerly known as Twitter, should not think they could blackmail him, saying “fuck you” numerous times. At one point he added the words “Hey Bob,” an apparent reference to Robert Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney, which pulled ads on X.
The “Great Replacement” theory holds that Jewish people and leftists are engineering the ethnic and cultural replacement of white populations with non-white immigrants that will lead to a “white genocide.”
Musk‘s post drew condemnation from the White House for what it called an “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate.”
Following the post, major U.S. companies including Walt Disney, Warner Bros Discovery and NBCUniversal parent Comcast suspended their ads on X. A report from liberal watchdog group Media Matters precipitated the advertiser exit, which said it found ads next to posts that supported Nazism. The platform filed a lawsuit last week against Media Matters for defamation.
Additional reporting by Reuters