OpenAI fires back at Elon Musk lawsuit and claims he regrets leaving the company

Executive says company has made 'much more mission progress than many – including Elon – thought possible'

Open AI chief executive Sam Altman and Elon Musk, a co-founder who is no longer involved in the company, are facing a potential legal showdown. AFP
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OpenAI has rejected the lawsuit filed by Elon Musk, saying that the billionaire who is a former investor regrets no longer being part of the company that is leading the artificial intelligence revolution.

The technology start-up made the claims in an internal memo sent to employees, a day after Mr Musk filed the case in a California court.

“We categorically disagree and, while we have a long way to go, have already made much more mission progress than many – including Elon – thought possible,” Open AI's chief strategy officer Jason Kwon said in the memo obtained by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and New York Times.

"We believe the claims in this suit may stem from Elon's regrets about not being involved with the company today. It is deeply disappointing to see Elon take this action against a company he helped start, especially given his close collaboration with some of you who are still here working towards the mission.”

Mr Musk, a cofounder who is no longer involved in the company, sued OpenAI and its chief executive Sam Altman on Thursday.

He accused the ChatGPT maker of the "stark betrayal" of its founding principles that include being a non-profit organisation that would ensure AI would be for the greater good of the world.

The lawsuit alleges that OpenAI has pursued profit, with Microsoft, the world's most valuable company and the biggest backer of OpenAI, benefiting the most.

The start-up accelerated development last year, and that caused the shift, the case alleges. Mr Musk stepped down in 2018. Microsoft was reported to have invested $10 billion in California-based OpenAI last year.

OpenAI "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 maximise profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity", the lawsuit alleges.

Mr Musk, the world's wealthiest person, further targeted Mr Altman, saying that when the two met in 2015, he thought he "may have found someone who understood his concerns about AI and his desire to keep the first AGI out of the hands of a private company like Google".

OpenAI's meteoric rise stemmed from its ChatGPT generative AI platform, which sparked a race between companies and investors to cash in on what is considered the next technological revolution.

However, while AI has already long been used, its evolving iterations have made it become even more powerful, stoking concerns about misinformation, misuse and bias.

It has also fuelled fears that AI will take jobs away from human beings.

Mr Musk also said that Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella "boasted" about the apparent benefits of Microsoft's support of OpenAI, in a boardroom saga that engulfed the start-up in November last year.

Mr Altman was ousted by OpenAI's board on November 17, accused of not being consistently candid in his communications, only to be reinstated a few days later after a dramatic chain of events that included two interim chief executives.

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In-between, Mr Nadella had said that Mr Altman would be joining Microsoft to lead a new AI development unit at the Windows operating system maker.

"Indeed, as the November 2023 drama was unfolding, Microsoft’s CEO boasted that it would not matter '[i]f OpenAI disappeared tomorrow'," the lawsuit said.

"He explained that '[w]e 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'," it said.

Microsoft has yet to respond to Mr Musk's lawsuit.

Updated: March 02, 2024, 2:49 PM