Elon Musk is an ‘idiot’ but was a ‘talent magnet’ for OpenAI early on, admits Sam Altman – who now faces direct competition from him

Elon Musk and Sam Altman share a stage in October 2015, before things get frosty. Michael Kovach/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

While Elon Musk recently launched an AI startup to compete with OpenAI, not long ago he co-founded the now-famous company — maker of the chatbots ChatGPT and GPT-4 — and helped it in important ways.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman described Musk’s early role while appearing on In good company Podcast this week.

“Elon was definitely a source of talent and attention, and he also had some real superpowers that were very useful to us in those early days, aside from all that stuff,” Altman told host Nikolai Tangen.

He didn’t provide examples of those “superpowers,” but venture capitalist Marc Andreessen recently identified the psychological traits that make Musk the “ultimate example” of an “unstoppable” entrepreneur.

This year, Musk expressed disgust at the direction OpenAI has taken, and in July he launched xAI, which he said “definitely competes” with Altman’s. xAI’s ultimate goal, in typical Musk fashion, is to “understand the true nature of the universe.” To that end, he has brought in top AI talent from Google, DeepMind, Microsoft, and his own company, Tesla.

Musk left OpenAI’s board in 2018. He had offered to lead the organization, but withdrew from the offer after it was rejected. according to Semaphore.

One of his strengths today is that he co-founded OpenAI as a non-profit in 2015, but then pivoted to a “for-profit” model in 2019 — the same year it received a $1 billion investment from Microsoft, with More billions to follow.

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Musk’s dissatisfaction with OpenAI became increasingly apparent earlier this year as the company’s valuation soared following the launch of ChatGPT, with the AI-powered chatbot becoming one of the fastest products ever adopted.

he chirp In February: “OpenAI was created as an open source (that’s why it’s called ‘Open’ AI), a non-profit company to act as a counterweight to Google, but now it’s effectively a closed source, profit-maximizing company. Controlled by Microsoft ”

Altman, although he acknowledges that OpenAI has taken an unconventional path in many ways, takes issue with this characterization of the partnership with Microsoft, As he does Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. But musk in May interview With CNBC, he said: “I’m concerned that Microsoft may actually be more in control than the leadership team at OpenAI thinks.”

He also complained in March about the fact that OpenAI’s change from a nonprofit model was made after he donated millions to it.

“I’m still baffled as to how the nonprofit I donated nearly $100 million to somehow became a for-profit with a market capitalization of $30 billion.” chirp. “If this is legal, why isn’t everyone doing it?” Doubts later arose about the actual The amount he gaveBut it seems clear that he donated millions of dollars to the non-profit organization at the time.

Altman’s comments about Musk were mixed. In May, Altman said during a speech in London that “learning from Elon about what could be done was very valuable.”

But he said to With Kara Swisher podcast in March, “I mean he’s an idiot, whatever you want to say about him, he has a style that I wouldn’t want to have myself.”

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