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Elon Musk has announced the launch of a new artificial intelligence company called xAI. The news comes after Musk has talked for months about the need to advance in AI research without risking the safety of society.
The xAI website unveiled today states that the company's goal is to "understand the universe"—whatever that means. The man behind Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and Twitter will also lead xAI, which has snagged executives and researchers from major players in the AI sector, including Google and Microsoft.
Several of xAI's key team members have already distinguished themselves at the forefront of AI research and development. For example, Jimmy Ba is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto who studied under renowned AI pioneer Geoffrey Hinton, who in turn led Google’s AI initiatives until his resignation. Christian Szegedy spent years as a Google research scientist working on core AI initiatives.
The xAI team page also lists Dan Hendrycks as an advisor. Hendrycks heads the Center for AI Safety, an organization focused on mitigating perceived threats from AI that gained fame after the release of a one-sentence letter asking governments to regulate AI before it destroyed humankind. Elon Musk co-signed the letter.
xAI is based in the San Francisco Bay area, a region that has become a hub for AI research and development, and the company website notes that it is actively recruiting experienced engineers and researchers to join the team. This means, presumably, that those who join Elon in his new endeavour will be received with wide-open arms and won’t meet the same fate of those who worked a Twitter when Elon took over the company.
Musk has a complex history with artificial intelligence. He was involved in co-founding OpenAI, one of the most prominent AI startups and the organization behind the ChatGPT chatbot. However, Musk departed OpenAI's board in 2018 and has frequently voiced criticisms of the company since then, stating his belief that it is now controlled by Microsoft, which has invested billions in the firm.
The billionaire entrepreneur has expressed concerns about the risks associated with advancing AI technology too quickly without sufficient safeguards. In March 2023, Musk was among a consortium of AI developers and tech industry leaders who signed another letter calling for a pause on training powerful AI models until their impacts could be better understood.
Musk appears to be drawing from his multiple business ventures to build xAI. The Wall Street Journal reported he registered a firm called X.AI in March through his personal investment company. X Corp, the parent company behind Twitter, is not related to xAI.
Musk currently leads six major companies, including Tesla, SpaceX, Twitter, Neuralink, The Boring Company, and now xAI. His leadership of Tesla does involve extensive work on AI and automation as strategic priorities for the electric vehicle manufacturer. It remains to be seen how xAI will collaborate with Musk's other ventures in the AI sphere, however.
The launch of xAI represents Musk's latest ambitious foray into the booming field of artificial intelligence. What exactly that will entail and whether xAI can make meaningful contributions in AI safety and ethics alongside its technological aspirations remains to be seen.