Musk Claims OpenAI Is Prioritising Profits Over Humanity In Recent Lawsuit

Elon Musk’s recent legal action against OpenAI has sent ripples through the tech community. The lawsuit alleges serious deviations from the company’s original altruistic mission. Musk articulated, “OpenAI, Inc. has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft.” This statement voices his concern that the AI research firm has moved away from its initial goals, and in turn, prioritising profit over public good.

Musk’s filing in San Francisco Superior Court goes further, asserting, “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.”

These words reflect Musk’s disillusionment with the path OpenAI has taken, moving away from an open-source model intended for widespread humanitarian benefit.


How Did OpenAI Respond?


OpenAI, led by CEO Sam Altman, vehemently disagrees with Musk’s accusations. In an internal memo, Altman lamented, “Elon was once a hero of mine, and I miss the person I knew who competed with others by building better technology.”

Jason Kwon, OpenAI’s Chief Strategy Officer, offered a more direct rebuttal in his memo, stating, “OpenAI is independent and competes directly with Microsoft.”

Kwon aims to clarify the startup’s stance and operational independence, countering Musk’s claims of undue influence by Microsoft.



What’s At Stake for AI Development?


The lawsuit raises many questions about the ethics and future of AI development. Musk’s allegations that OpenAI has veered away from its mission to develop open-source AI for the betterment of humanity strike at the core of the broader debate on the commercialisation and control of AI technologies.

Sam Altman’s nostalgic remark about Musk, “I miss the person I knew who competed with others by building better technology,” resonates beyond personal sentiment, highlighting the industry’s struggle between advancing technology for public benefit versus private gain.


What Does This Mean for the Industry?


Musk’s challenge to OpenAI’s current trajectory and his call for a return to open-source principles reflect growing concerns over the monopolisation of AI technologies by corporate entities.

Kwon’s defense that “OpenAI is independent and competes directly with Microsoft” seeks to reassure stakeholders of the company’s commitment to its original ethos, despite Musk’s contrary claims. This dispute underscores the ongoing battle for the soul of AI development: will it serve the many or the few?

The unfolding of this legal battle calls for reflection on the tech community and beyond, about the principles guiding AI development. The outcome of Musk’s lawsuit against OpenAI could set the way in how AI research startups and enterprises operate, as well as the transparency of their operations, and the accessibility of their innovations.


What Do Experts Have To Say?


Patrik Backman, General Partner at early-stage deeptech VC OpenOcean, said: “Elon Musk’s lawsuit against OpenAI highlights how the foundational principles of open-source development have been tested in recent years.

“The transformation of OpenAI from a non-profit entity into a profit-driven organisation, closely tied with Microsoft, mirrors broader trends we’ve observed in the tech sector, where large corporations have increasingly capitalised on open-source innovations without proportionately contributing back to the community.

“The original mission of OpenAI promised an inclusive development pathway that prioritised human benefit over profit. However, as we saw with HashiCorp or MongoDB’s strategic licensing decisions, navigating the balance between open innovation and financial sustainability is complex.

“Open-source projects, especially those with the potential to redefine our relationship with technology, must carefully consider their licensing models to ensure they are able to operate while staying true to their core ethos. These models should facilitate innovation, true, but they should also guard against the monopolisation of technologies that have the potential to permanently impact humanity.”