May 23, 2023 - Economy

Elon Musk teases new AI project

Photo illustration of Elon Musk stylized as a comic book character

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Patrick Pleul/Pool via Getty Images

Elon Musk appears to be readying a new project to enter the AI arena against Microsoft and OpenAI.

Why it matters: His plans could involve harnessing together technology from at least two of his companies — Tesla and Twitter — "to some degree," according to Musk.

Driving the news: "I think there should be a significant third horse in the race here," Musk said Tuesday during a WSJ event, referring to Microsoft's partnership with OpenAI and Google's DeepMind.

  • "I don't want to jump the gun here on announcements, but OpenAI has a relationship with Microsoft that seems to work very well ... so it's possible that X.AI and Twitter and Tesla would have something similar."

State of play: Musk registered X.AI Corp. as an AI startup last month — around the time he also merged Twitter Inc. into X Corp.

Flashback: Musk's interest and ambitions in AI date back to at least 2011 when he was an early investor in DeepMind, a London startup at the time, the New York Times notes.

  • A few years later, he and then Y Combinator president Sam Altman founded OpenAI as a nonprofit.

The intrigue: As Microsoft and OpenAI's partnership has grown more prolific, Musk has grown more protective of Twitter's data and more vocal about the dangers of AI.

What they're saying: "AI will usher in an age of abundance, assuming that we're in a benign AI scenario," Musk said on Tuesday.

  • At the same time, Musk repeated his fear that there's a "not zero chance" of AI going "Terminator."

The big picture: Musk said AI will change the way the human race operates "a lot" in the future.

  • "Anything where intelligence can be applied — even modest intelligence — will be automated ... 10, 20 years from now."

Be smart: Musk has been on an extensive media tour this year, as two of his most high-profile companies come under pressure.

What to watch: Musk believes the key to competing in AI is having talented people, a lot of expensive computing power and access to data.

  • He also warned about the dangers that AI will play in upcoming elections — stressing that having more paid subscribers on social media platforms could cut down on AI manipulation.
  • When asked to rank the U.S. and China on their respective AI prowess, Musk said that the U.S. has "the most advanced AI."

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