Elon Musk files lawsuit against OpenAI, CEO Sam Altman for violating 'benefiting humanity' agreement

Musk alleges breach of contract, commercial interests

Elon Musk has filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and its CEO, Sam Altman, for violating the company's Founding Agreement to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI) for the 'benefit of humanity,' and not for individual interests. The lawsuit alleges that Altman's moves, driven by commercial interests, have led to violations of the agreement.

AGI for 'benefiting humanity'

OpenAI was founded in 2015 with the purpose of developing AGI to benefit humanity. The company's Founding Agreement, signed by Altman, Musk, and Greg Brockman, laid out two conditions for OpenAI: (1) it would be a non-profit developing AGI for the benefit of humanity, and (2) all technology would be open source, with the balance weighted toward safety considerations, and not kept closed or secret for commercial interests.

GPT-4 licensing and secrecy

Musk claims that Altman has breached the agreement by keeping the design of GPT-4 internal and secret from the public, with only Microsoft having knowledge of it. Further, by licensing GPT-4 and failing to disclose details of its architecture, hardware, training methods, and computation, and by putting a 'paywall' between the public and GPT-4, OpenAI is not acting in the best interests of humanity, according to Musk. He further alleges that GPT-4 has become a 'de facto Microsoft proprietary algorithm,' in violation of the agreement.

Growing Microsoft control and board revamp

Musk has also expressed opposition to Microsoft's growing hold over OpenAI's technology. In 2020, OpenAI licensed its GPT-3 language model exclusively to Microsoft, but the agreement was made with the stipulation that it did not apply to AGI technology. It was left to the non-profit board of OpenAI to determine when AGI was achieved.

In November 2023, Altman and Brockman were unexpectedly fired from the OpenAI board, only to return a few days later. The board was then revamped and now includes Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo. Musk alleges that these new board members were 'hand-picked by Mr. Altman and blessed by Microsoft' and are ill-equipped to determine when OpenAI has attained AGI, in violation of the agreement. Further, Musk claims that OpenAI has transformed into a closed-source subsidiary of Microsoft.

Request for court order and judicial determination

In addition to requesting that the court order Altman and Brockman to adhere to the terms of the Founding Agreement, Musk also seeks a court order prohibiting them from using OpenAI or its assets for their financial benefit, as well as that of Microsoft or any other entity. Further, Musk seeks a judicial determination on whether GPT-4 and OpenAI's upcoming AI model, Q* (Q Star), constitute AGI, which would mean that they are outside the scope of Microsoft's license.

This lawsuit marks a significant development in the AI ethics and governance space, as it calls into question the very principles on which OpenAI was founded and the potential commercial interests of companies developing AI technology. Only time will tell how this lawsuit impacts the future of AI development and whether it will result in greater transparency and accountability in the field.

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