Tech News : Musk’s New AI Company’s Mission To “Understand The Universe”

19th July 2023

There’s nothing like setting the bar high and Elon Musk recently announced in a Twitter Spaces audio chat that the purpose of his new AI company, xAI, will be to “understand the universe”.

What Is xAI? 

xAI is Elon Musk’s new startup that aims to build a kind of ‘good’ AI system that will lead to an “age of plenty” where there’s no shortage of goods and services, as opposed to the dark, terminator-style future where AI could wipe out humanity. Musk said he wants xAI to be a “good AI” alternative to Microsoft, Google and OpenAI (ChatGPT’s makers). Elon Musk was famously one of the high-profile signatories (there were 1800) of the open letter calling for a six-month moratorium on the development of AI systems “more powerful” than that of GPT-4 which stated systems with “human-competitive intelligence” poses profound risks to humanity.

Musk said: “If I could press pause on AI or really advanced AI digital superintelligence I would. It doesn’t seem like that is realistic so xAI is essentially going to build an AI … in a good way, sort of hopefully”.

Who’s Involved? 

With Musk as the sole director, others involved in the xAI project include Jared Birchall (secretary), Dan Hendrycks (director of the Center for AI Safety), Igor Babuschkin (a former DeepMind engineer), Tony Wu (formerly of Google), Christian Szegedy (formerly Google – research), and Greg Yang (formerly of Microsoft).

What’s Going On? 

In Musk’s 90-minute-long chat, he jokingly remarked that the mission of xAI will be to find out “what the hell is really going on” in terms of creating “a maximally curious AI” that is trying to “understand the true nature of the universe” in a “pro-humanity” way.

Realised Pause Is Not Realistic 

In Musk’s Twitter chat, he acknowledged (as many critics of the open letter’s demands had previously pointed out) that a pause/moratorium in the development of AI systems is not realistic and that the best course of action is to create a friendly alternative.

‘Terminator’ Style Fate May Be Closer Than You Think 

During his chat, Musk said of the predictions of human-level intelligence AI’s potential to turn against and wipe out humans: “It’s actually important for us to worry about a Terminator future in order to avoid a Terminator future.” He suggested that the superintelligent AI (more intelligent than humans) could be only five or six years away.

Working With Tesla & Twitter – Twitter Data To Train 

The xAI website states that: “We are a separate company from X Corp, but will work closely with X (Twitter), Tesla, and other companies to make progress towards our mission.”  Musk has been very vocal about (and threatened lawsuits for) those allegedly using Twitter’s data.

Criticism 

Musk is also facing criticism in the news at the moment over his apparently personal fight with Mark Zuckerberg over allegations that Twitter data may have been used to develop Meta’s ‘Threads’ (which already has 100 million+ users, many from Twitter, plus the fact that after $44 billion and eight months on from taking over Twitter, the social network appears to be teetering on the edge of going under.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Many critics blame Musk’s behaviour in taking over Twitter – aggressive cost-cutting, the Blue Tick system, the sackings, advertisers leaving, and still a negative cashflow, 50 per cent drop in advertising revenue, and a heavy debt load (and more). While Musk may choose to blame Zuckerberg and Meta e.g., for scraping Twitter data, many see the apparent fast decline of Twitter that created the right circumstances for a serious competitor like Meta’s ‘Threads’ to gain massive and instant traction and mass as something Musk could blame on himself. Many may, therefore, see a move to launch yet another company as a rival to AI, which is advancing at a pace anyway, and accepting that getting xAI to the level of Google’s DeepMind and OpenAI could take a long time, as another high risk move by Musk. Using Twitter and Tesla to help get xAI off the ground may also make investors nervous, especially looking at the trajectory of Twitter. Many may see valid points in Musk’s arguments about needing to ensure that AI’s growth is at least made as safe as possible, but apparently swimming against a strong tide with a reputation that has taken a bit of a battering may make many doubt whether xAI will seriously be able, even with all the experts on board, to create another kind of safer AI. The battle of formats in many other tech markets springs to mind, but the events at Twitter may overshadow xAI’s development.