Mar 1, 2024 - Technology

Memos: OpenAI execs reject Elon Musk's claims

Sam Altman, speaking at an Axios event at the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

Sam Altman, speaking at an Axios event at the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Photo: Dani Ammann/Axios

OpenAI's top executives rejected several claims Elon Musk has made in a lawsuit — insisting in a Friday memo to staff, seen by Axios, that the company remains independent, committed to benefiting humanity and has yet to achieve artificial general intelligence in its products.

What they're saying: "[Musk's] allegations — including claims that GPT-4 is an AGI, that open-sourcing our technology is the key to the mission and that we are a de facto subsidiary of Microsoft — do not reflect the reality of our work or mission," chief strategy officer Jason Kwon said in a memo to employees seen by Axios.

CEO Sam Altman sent a follow-up message, echoing Kwon's statements and acknowledging that this year is shaping up to be a hard one for the company.

  • "It was never going to be a cakewalk," Altman's said in his note, also seen by Axios. "The attacks will keep coming."

Between the lines: Kwon's email also acknowledges the government inquiries that followed last November's ouster and rehiring of Altman.

  • "Separately, I want to update you on inquiries from government agencies. After the events of last November, they asked us for information and this matches what we'd expect given the circumstances," Kwon wrote. "We are a law-abiding company, committed to meeting all legal obligations and fully complying with the government's requests. "

Zoom in: Kwon's memo aims to rebut three of Musk's main claims.

1. That GPT-4 represents AGI: "It is capable of solving small tasks in many jobs, but the ratio of work done by a human to the work done by GPT-4 in the economy remains staggeringly high," Kwon writes. "Importantly, an AGI will be a highly autonomous system capable enough to devise novel solutions to longstanding challenges — GPT-4 can't do that."

2. That OpenAI has abandoned its mission of benefitting humanity: "Our challenge is both to build AGI and to make sure its impact is maximally positive," Kwon wrote. "We've found that the strategy of creating frontier technology and making it broadly available by APIs and products best serves both parts of this mission, since we're able to attract the necessary capital, make the technology broadly usable, and also provide guardrails as required by society and conscience."

3. That it is acting as a subsidiary of Microsoft. "We decide what to research and build, how to run the company, who our products serve and how to live out our mission," he said. "We also directly compete with Microsoft to deliver the best value and products to businesses, developers and everyday people. As we know, OpenAI is the creator of ChatGPT and ChatGPT for Enterprise, while Microsoft offers Copilot and Copilot for Microsoft 365."

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