Restless billionaire Elon Musk has just launched a sixth company that he'll be overseeing, this one hoping to get into the artificial intelligence space and, ahem, "understand the true nature of the universe."
As he foreshadowed during one of the last interviews Tucker Carlson ever did on Fox News in April, Musk is interested in AI but he is not at all happy with the direction AI — and specifically ChatGPT — is going. And after incorporating something called X Corp. and something else called X.AI in Nevada, today Musk announced the launch of xAI. The company already has a gold-checkmarked Twitter account, obviously, and the first tweet: "What are the most fundamental unanswered questions?"
Just on a basic level, understanding the nature of the universe is probably not something a for-profit corporation is ever going to accomplish. But Musk likes to talk in these grandiose terms, and it's certainly better marketing than sitting with white-supremacist Tucker Carlson talking about how existing AI chatbots are already too politically correct. He wants a chatbot that's free to be racist! Or something.
What Musk said in that April interview, about his upcoming AI venture, was, "We’re going to start something which I call TruthGPT," which would be a "maximum truth-seeking AI" that "cares about understanding the universe," but doesn't care about being "woke."
Musk was an early backer of ChatGPT and was involved in the early days of OpenAI, in 2015, but he left the company's board in 2018, ostensibly to avoid a conflict of interest with Tesla, as The Verge reported at the time. But if Tesla developing AI tech for autonomous cars was a conflict then, why is it not a conflict now?
In December, Musk cryptically tweeted, before ChatGPT had been made public, "The danger of training AI to be woke – in other words, lie – is deadly." And he has been very public about his concerns — though the whole "woke" thing is not really germane to this open letter Musk cosigned with 1,100 other bigwigs in March cautioning that AI development was moving too fast and should take a pause. The letter warned of AIs replacing human jobs, "even the fulfilling ones," and "nonhuman minds... might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us."
The timing of this xAI announcement feels a little funny, given that Musk has been on the wrong side of the recent news cycle about Meta's launch of Threads, and the implications for his newest baby, Twitter. But maybe Musk is, in fact, getting tired of running Twitter, and just needs something else to distract him.
And/or, Musk sees the writing on the wall about AI being the next big thing in tech, and he doesn't want to feel left out.
The xAI website explains that xAI is separate from X Corp, "but will work closely with X (Twitter), Tesla, and other companies to make progress towards our mission." And it lists out the Team, which includes former employees of OpenAI, Google Research, Microsoft Research, and DeepMind, like Igor Babuschkin, Manuel Kroiss, Yuhuai (Tony) Wu, Christian Szegedy, Jimmy Ba, Toby Pohlen.
And the company is actively hiring in the Bay Area, seeking "experienced engineers and researchers to join our team as members of our technical staff." You can apply here.
Musk has scheduled a Twitter Spaces discussion with the team for Friday, July 14, at an hour still TBA, at which interested parties can "meet the team and ask us questions." Don't bother asking what they're planning to build, exactly, because they probably don't know yet. But definitely ask about the true nature of the universe, and whether it requires owning six companies to discover it.