Friday, March 1, 2024

Elon Musk Files Suit Asserting OpenAI Burned Down Its Nonprofit House

Elon Musk on how to build the future – Interview with Sam Altman – Elon Musk  Interviews

The richest man in the world filed a lawsuit last night against another very rich guy and his tax exempt scientific research organization.  From the Associated Press:

Elon Musk is suing OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman over what he says is a betrayal of the ChatGPT maker’s founding aims of benefiting humanity rather than pursuing profits.  In a lawsuit filed at San Francisco Superior Court, billionaire Musk said that when he bankrolled OpenAI’s creation, he secured an agreement with Altman and Greg Brockman, the president, to keep the AI company as a non-profit that would develop technology for the benefit of the public.  Under its founding agreement, OpenAI would also make its code open to the public instead of walling it off for any private company’s gains, the lawsuit says.  

However, by embracing a close relationship with Microsoft, OpenAI and its top executives have set that pact “aflame” and are “perverting” the company’s mission, Musk alleges in the lawsuit.  “OpenAI, Inc. has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft,” the lawsuit filed Thursday says. “Under its new Board, it is not just developing but is actually refining an AGI to maximize profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity.”

Here are excerpts from the complaint:

B. The Founding Agreement Of OpenAI, Inc.

23. Mr. Altman purported to share Mr. Musk’s concerns over the threat posed by AGI. In 2015, Mr. Altman wrote that the “[d]evelopment of superhuman machine intelligence (SMI) is probably the greatest threat to the continued existence of humanity. There are other threats that I think are more certain to happen . . . but are unlikely to destroy every human in the universe in the way that SMI could.” Later that same year, Mr. Altman approached Mr. Musk with a proposal: that they join forces to form a non-profit AI lab that would try to catch up to Google in the race for AGI, but it would be the opposite of Google.

24. Together with Mr. Brockman, the three agreed that this new lab: (a) would be a nonprofit developing AGI for the benefit of humanity, not for a for-profit company seeking to maximize shareholder profits; and (b) would be open-source, balancing only countervailing safety considerations, and would not keep its technology closed and secret for proprietary commercial reasons (The “Founding Agreement”). Reflecting the Founding Agreement, Mr. Musk named this new AI lab “OpenAI,” which would compete with, and serve as a vital counterbalance to, Google/DeepMind in the race for AGI, but would do so to benefit humanity, not the shareholders of a private, for-profit company (much less one of the largest technology companies in the world).

25. The Founding Agreement was also memorialized, among other places, in OpenAI, Inc.’s December 8, 2015 Certificate of Incorporation, which affirmed that its “resulting technology will benefit the public and the corporation will seek to open source technology for the public benefit when applicable. The corporation is not organized for the private gain of any person.” Ex. 1 at 1. The Certificate of Incorporation further affirmed that all of the corporation’s property was “irrevocably dedicated” to these agreed purposes. Id

26. In reliance on the Founding Agreement, which Mr. Altman, Mr. Brockman, and OpenAI, Inc. reaffirmed with Mr. Musk on multiple occasions, Mr. Musk was a moving force behind the creation of OpenAI, Inc. contributing a majority of its funding in its first several years, advising on research directions, and most importantly, recruiting some of the world’s leading scientists and engineers to work at the non-profit venture, including Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever. Recruiting for OpenAI, Inc. was a Herculean task in the face of relentless recruiting efforts by Google/DeepMind, coupled with the lavish compensation Google/DeepMind offered. There would have been no OpenAI, Inc. without Mr. Musk’s founding contributions and early leadership. Mr. Musk continued to make contributions to OpenAI, Inc. from its founding through September 14, 2020.

27. OpenAI’s initial research was performed in the open, providing free and public access to designs, models, and code. When OpenAI, Inc. researchers discovered that an algorithm called “Transformers,” initially invented by Google, could perform many natural language tasks without any explicit training, entire communities sprung up to enhance and extend the models released by OpenAI, Inc. These communities spread to open-source, grass-roots efforts and commercial entities alike.

28. Mr. Altman became OpenAI, Inc.’s CEO in 2019. On September 22, 2020, OpenAI entered into an agreement with Microsoft, exclusively licensing to Microsoft its Generative Pre-Trained Transformer (GPT)-3 language model. However, OpenAI published a detailed paper describing the internals and training data for GPT-3, enabling the community to create similar models themselves. And, most critically, the Microsoft license only applied to OpenAI’s pre-AGI technology. Microsoft obtained no rights to AGI. And it was up to OpenAI, Inc.’s non-profit Board, not Microsoft, to determine when OpenAI attained AGI. 

C. The 2023 Breach Of The Founding Agreement

29. In 2023, Defendants Mr. Altman, Mr. Brockman, and OpenAI set the Founding Agreement aflame.

I haven't had time to read the entire complaint yet, but how's that for a teaser?  Click on the link above to read the full complaint.  

darryll k. jones

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