OpenAI hits back at Elon Musk with a blast from the past in email showdown



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OpenAI leadership responds to Elon Musk’s accusations and unearths 8-year-old emails.

Elon Musk wants to sue OpenAI, accusing the company of abandoning its original mission and acting as an extension of Microsoft, among other things. The company has now responded to some accusations and dug up old emails between OpenAI executives and Musk.

According to the emails, a $1 billion funding commitment was at the beginning of the creation of OpenAI. Elon Musk himself had suggested announcing a much higher amount, $1 billion, instead of the planned $100 million, so as not to appear “hopeless”. Musk even agreed to cover the amount not donated by others.

In practice, Musk invested less than $45 million, with just over $90 million coming from other donors.

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Both OpenAI and Musk also recognized that the development of advanced AI would require significantly more capital – several billion US dollars per year. This led to discussions about a for-profit structure for OpenAI to obtain the necessary resources.

According to OpenAI, Musk wanted the majority of shares, initial control of the board, and the position of CEO. During negotiations, he withheld his funding and another investor stepped in to cover salaries and operating costs. The proposal was rejected.

As an alternative, Musk proposed to integrate OpenAI into Tesla to obtain the necessary funding. OpenAI also rejected this proposal, so Musk left OpenAI and announced that he would build a competitor within Tesla. Nevertheless, according to the blog post, he expressed his support for OpenAI and its path to raising billions of dollars in funding.

How open should OpenAI be?

The company also has something to say about the accusations of closed development.

Elon understood the mission did not imply open-sourcing AGI. As Ilya told Elon: “As we get closer to building AI, it will make sense to start being less open.  The Open in openAI means that everyone should benefit from the fruits of AI after its built, but it’s totally OK to not share the science…”, to which Elon replied: “Yup”.

Ilya Sutskever also referred to a text about the dangers of open AI that Musk had previously sent to the leadership team. Whether his “Yup” can be interpreted as a clear endorsement of the OpenAI course is questionable, of course.

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