OpenAI shares Elon Musk’s emails, says he wanted ‘full control’ of the company from Mashable

Last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk filed a lawsuit against ChatGPT creator OpenAI, claiming it breached an agreement between early backers when it transitioned into a for-profit company and received a big funding check from Microsoft, and asking it to go open-source and nonprofit again.

Now, OpenAI has published its side of the story.

OpenAI’s response is fairly short but quite devastating for Musk, as it contains several emails from Musk which indicate that he knew about OpenAI’s plans to go for-profit, and that he suggested for the company to merge with Tesla. One email also indicates that he knew and agreed with OpenAI’s plans to eventually stop sharing all its work as open source.

OpenAI’s blog post, authored by co-founders Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, John Schulman, Wojciech Zaremba, and OpenAI in general, further claims that Musk wanted “full control” of the company.

“As we discussed a for-profit structure in order to further the mission, Elon wanted us to merge with Tesla or he wanted full control. Elon left OpenAI, saying there needed to be a relevant competitor to Google/DeepMind and that he was going to do it himself. He said he’d be supportive of us finding our own path,” the post says.

The post further claims that, when Musk couldn’t have his way with OpenAI, he decided to leave and build his own AGI (artificial general intelligence) competitor within Tesla; Musk indeed launched his own AI project in November 2023.

OpenAI further disputed Elon Musk’s claims that he donated a hundred million dollars to the company, even though he claimed the company needs to go big to “avoid sounding hopeless” in comparison to Google. “Elon said we should announce an initial $1B funding commitment to OpenAI. In total, the non-profit has raised less than $45M from Elon and more than $90M from other donors,” the post says.

The emails that OpenAI shared provide important context given Musk’s lawsuit, as they indicate that he knew about OpenAI’s plans to ditch open-source and go for-profit, but gave up on it once he realized he couldn’t be in charge.

There’s a lot still missing here; for example, the agreement between co-founders and early investors that Musk mentions in his lawsuit isn’t explicitly mentioned in OpenAI’s post. Also, it’s likely that a lot more correspondence exists between Musk and OpenAI’s founders and investors, painting a fuller picture of everyone’s intentions towards the company. Given Musk’s lawsuit, this surely isn’t the last we’ve heard on this topic.

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