What is xAI, Elon Musk’s new AI company, and will it succeed?

What is xAI, Elon Musk’s new AI company, and will it succeed?

Elon Musk is launching a new company called xAI

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What is xAI?

xAI is Elon Musk’s just-announced artificial intelligence company. Its 12-strong team plans to “understand the true nature of the universe”, according to an announcement posted on the xAI website.

xAI is separate to X Corp, the umbrella company of Twitter, according to the venture’s website, but will “work closely” with Musk’s other companies, including Twitter and Tesla, which uses AI for its self-driving cars. “I don’t know what the deal with the Xs is,” says Catherine Flick at De Montfort University, UK. “He obviously just likes Xs.”

Why has Musk launched it?

It is an extension of Musk’s longstanding interest in AI and his return to the field after pulling funding from OpenAI back in 2018. Musk had been the primary bankroller for the company – which created ChatGPT – at its launch in 2015, appearing on stage at an academic conference announcing $1 billion in funding.

Musk reportedly withdrew from OpenAI after he bid to take over running it, worrying it had lost ground to Google in developing AI technology, and was rejected by co-founder Sam Altman. Since then, he has taken potshots at OpenAI on Twitter, including criticising a shift in how it was funded when it went from being a not-for-profit company to a for-profit firm with a $30 billion valuation.

“He’s the sort of person who has a lot of money and can afford to dump billions of dollars into vanity projects,” says Flick. Musk didn’t respond to a request to comment for this story.

Who is involved?

The dozen named initial members of xAI’s team include former employees of DeepMind, OpenAI, Google Research, Microsoft Research and Tesla, as well as researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada.

Although the team is drawn from a diverse range of companies, its gender make-up is significantly less diverse: all are men. “He’s brought together a bunch of men to work on understanding the universe, whatever that means, which is, as a philosopher… it’s just the cheapest version of armchair philosophy,” says Flick.

What will the company aim to do?

Besides attempting to understand the universe, it seems likely that xAI will try to develop what Musk deems a safer, fairer AI system. Musk has previously signed a letter calling for a pause on the development…

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