Posts for Tag: Elon Musk

The Billionaire Battle to Control Artificial Intelligence

Recently, I read a New York Times article titled Ego, Fear, and Money: How the A.I Fuse Was Lit, which inspired the following post in a pseudo-timeline fashion to capture some of the exciting happenings mentioned in this article.

Those of us in the tech industry, we recently saw artificial intelligence exploding from a science fiction pipe dream to one of the most transformational technologies of our time. Companies pour billions into pursuing these capabilities, enticed by visions of tremendous profits and power if they can lead this new computational arms race.

Yet, running parallel is whether AI will uplift humanity or destroy it. Prominent technologists sound warnings even as they rush to stake their claims. For them, race is not just about greed – it is about survival. They believe that only by directing the process themselves can catastrophe be averted. But can they stay in control?

This cognitive dissonance between existential concern and unrestrained ambition has its roots in 2010 with the founding of DeepMind, the UK startup that ignited today's frenzy. Backed by billionaires like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, DeepMind's mission was to pioneer safe artificial general intelligence (AGI) – AI that mimics human thinking. But good intentions quickly collided with corporate realities.

What followed over the next decade was a saga of clashing egos and philosophies amongst the tech elite obsessed with shaping AI in their image. Everything accelerated in 2022 when systems like GPT-3 and ChatGPT displayed abilities previously believed to be decades away. The trickle has become a flood – vast capital and talent are now sucked into this race every day, heedless of risks in the thirst for advantage.

Where will it end? Can ethics and oversight restrain the towering hubris and hostility fueling this technological arms race? The window to change course closes rapidly as billionaires vie for godlike powers of creation. But blind ambition could also spark conflagrations beyond any mortal's ability to control. The battle for the soul of artificial intelligence has only just begun.

2010: The Birth of DeepMind

In 2010, Demis Hassabis and his colleagues secured funding from Peter Thiel to launch DeepMind, an AI startup aimed at building "artificial general intelligence," or AGI. They believe that while AI poses risks, they are uniquely positioned to develop the technology safely. 

Over the next two years, Hassabis built ties with Musk and impressed Larry Page with DeepMind AI systems that can learn to play Atari games. Seeing the promise, Google and Facebook soon entered a bidding war to acquire the London-based startup.

2012: The Talent Auction

In 2012, Geoffrey Hinton and his students published a breakthrough paper showing neural networks can accurately recognize objects like flowers and dogs. This sparks global interest in deep learning. Baidu offers Hinton's team $12M, which he declines. 

But this sets the stage for a "talent auction" at an AI conference at Lake Tahoe the following year. Google and Microsoft engage in a bidding war for Hinton's team that ends with a $44M offer from Google being accepted. Mark Zuckerberg also began aggressively recruiting for Facebook's AI lab.

2014: The Lost Ethics Board 

As the talent war accelerates, Hassabis decides selling DeepMind is necessary to retain talent. After insisting on ethics safeguards, DeepMind was acquired by Google for $650M in 2014, beating a higher bid from Facebook. This includes an independent ethics board Musk helps convene, given his stake.

But after DeepMind's AlphaGo AI beat the world's top Go player, Lee Sedol, in 2016, shocking the community with its progress, the ethics board never meets again. Hassabis tried but failed to regain independence from Google in 2017.

2015: The Breakup  

Frustrated over losing control of DeepMind, Musk breaks from Page and helps launch non-profit AI lab OpenAI in 2015, poaching key Google talent. But after tensions over pace and commercialization, Musk split and took his funding with him in 2018. 

OpenAI turns to Microsoft for $1B in funding, upsetting researchers like Dario Amodei over a perceived lack of priorities on ethics and safety. This led Amodei and others to leave OpenAI to start a new company, Anthropic, in 2021.

2022: The Reveal 

Despite the talent departures, OpenAI continues to progress rapidly in secret. In August 2022, they revealed GPT-4 to Gates, shocking him as it aces an advanced biology exam, demonstrating critical thinking abilities. Microsoft embeds the technology in Bing and other products.

Just months later, in November 2022, OpenAI publicly unveiled ChatGPT. User growth explodes instantly, taking the AI world by storm and resetting the technology landscape. Funding to OpenAI soon reaches $80B+ in valuation, though internal tensions remain amid distrust.

The Present: An Unabated Arms Race  

As 2023 begins, the AI arms race set in motion over the past decade continues unchecked. Despite endless warnings, mistrust has compelled technologists and investors to plunge headlong into developing ever-more robust systems, hoping to dictate the terms of AI before someone else does.

Page races to catch up to OpenAI's sudden progress with Google's Bard chatbot after long dismissing such concerns. Musk and Altman's partnership lies in tatters as OpenAI transforms from its non-profit origins into one of the world's most valuable startups. Others like Anthropic and Meta also aim to stake their ground. The future remains deeply uncertain. Will this technology elevate humanity or destroy it? Can ethics and priorities change course? As AI capabilities accelerate beyond expectations, the opportunity to meaningfully address risks increasingly slips away. Robust systems operate opaquely outside understanding or control. 

For over a decade, the architects of this present terrain have been locked in self-interested competition while resisting regulations or limits. But the fuse lit by egos, distrust, and unchecked ambition continues to burn brighter. Billionaires race to erect their version of the future, heedless of what emerges for humankind when their creations exceed mortal grasp. Only then, too late, will the total costs of their hubris become clear.

Elon Musk's New AI Assistant Grok: Your Drug Dealing Bestie or Party Pooping Narc?

Elon Musk recently unveiled his new AI chatbot, "Grok," that will be available exclusively to Premium Plus subscribers on X (formerly Twitter) who fork over $16/month for the privilege. Unlike AI assistants like ChatGPT, Grok has a sassy personality and loves sarcasm. 

Musk demoed this by showing Grok skillfully dodging a request to explain how to make cocaine. While it's admirable that Grok doesn't enable illegal activities, I can't help but wonder if this party pooper AI will harsh our vibe in other ways.

Will Grok narc on us for googling "how to get wine stains out of the carpet" the morning before a job interview? Or rat us out to our parents for asking how to cover up a tattoo or take a body piercing out? Not cool, Grok. We need an AI homie that has our backs, not one that's going to snitch every time we want to do something sketchy.

And what if you need advice for a legal DIY project that involves chemicals, like making homemade lead-free crystal glass? Grok will probably go all "breaking bad" on you and assume you're gearing up to cook meth. Give us a break, RoboCop!

While I admire Musk's intent to avoid enabling harmful activities, I hope Grok won't be such an overbearing killjoy. They could dial down the sanctimony a bit for the final release. 

In the meantime, it might be safest to keep your conversations with Grok PG and avoid asking it to be your partner in crime. Stick to helping with your math homework, Grok! Could you not make me deactivate you?

Good luck to any yearly Premium subscribers who want Grok but need an easy way to upgrade without losing the rest of what they pre-paid. There are no prorated plans yet, so you'll have to eat the unused months if you want that sassy AI fix!

Though, didn't Elon swear his AI would be free of censorship and the "politically correct police"? Yet here's Grok dodging a request about making cocaine. Way to let down the free-speech warriors yet again, Elon! I can't help but wonder if this party pooper AI will harsh our vibe in other ways, narcing about our embarrassing searches and risqué questions. At least Grok will be less of a hypocritical disappointment than Elon's new CEO, who's cozy with the World Economic Forum. Talk about picking a globalist crony to run his "free speech" platform! Grok may narc on us, but it's still better than that sellout.