Elon Musk Sues OpenAI and Sam Altman for Abandoning Its Not-For-Profit Mission

IBL News | New York

Billionaire entrepreneur and owner of Tesla, SpaceX, and X Elon Musk sued this week OpenAI and its CEO, Sam Altman, saying they abandoned the startup’s original, not-for- profit mission, which was based on developing AI for the benefit of humanity.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in California Superior Court in San Francisco, is a culmination of Musk’s opposition to the startup he co-founded. OpenAI has since become the leading company in generative AI, with the help of $13 billion of dollars in funding from Microsoft.

Musk’s lawsuit alleges a breach of contract, saying Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman originally approached him to make an open-source, non-profit company, but the startup established in 2015 is now focused on making money.

OpenAI “set the founding agreement aflame” in 2023 when it released its most powerful language model GPT-4, as essentially a Microsoft product, the lawsuit alleged.

Musk said OpenAI’s three founders originally agreed to work on artificial general intelligence (AGI), a concept that machines could handle tasks like humans, but in a way that would “benefit humanity,” according to the lawsuit. OpenAI would also work in opposition to Google, which Musk said he believed was developing AGI for profit and would pose grave risks.

“OpenAI, Inc. 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 maximize profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity,” Musk says in the suit.

“OpenAI, Inc.’s once carefully crafted non-profit structure was replaced by a purely profit-driven CEO and a board with inferior technical expertise in AGI and AI public policy. The board now has an observer seat reserved solely for Microsoft,” Musk claims.

Musk is represented in the suit by Los Angeles law firm Irell & Manella.

According to Reuters, Musk decided to try to seize control of OpenAI from Altman and the other founders in late 2017, aiming to convert it into a commercial entity in partnership with Tesla, utilizing the automaker’s supercomputers.

Last July, Musk founded his own artificial intelligence startup, xAI.

An email exchange between Musk and Altman, presented as evidence in the lawsuit.