Elon Musk left OpenAI due to conflict of interest with Tesla

OpenAI, the nonprofit research firm co-founded by Elon Musk, announced that the serial tech entrepreneur is stepping down from the organization’s board of directors. According to an official announcement by the nonprofit, Elon’s departure is partly due to Tesla’s AI projects, which could result in a potential conflict of interest for the CEO. 

Musk’s departure from OpenAI’s board does not mean that he is relinquishing ties with the nonprofit, however. In a blog post about its new supporters, the research firm asserted that the Tesla CEO will be staying on as a benefactor and advisor for the organization.

“Elon Musk will depart the OpenAI Board but will continue to donate and advise the organization. As Tesla continues to become more focused on AI, this will eliminate a potential future conflict for Elon.”

As Tesla continues to evolve its Autopilot suite of features and aims to complete its first coast-to-coast fully autonomous drive this year, the Silicon Valley electric carmaker is said to be working on its own AI-based chips that will power the company’s future fleet of driverless cars. Musk revealed his efforts to produce a custom AI chip during a machine learning conference held last year, telling event attendees that Tesla is developing specialized AI hardware that will be the “best in the world.” According to The RegisterMusk told event attendees, “I wanted to make it clear that Tesla is serious about AI, both on the software and hardware fronts. We are developing custom AI hardware chips”.

Stepping down from OpenAI’s board seems to be a logical step for Musk as his focus on developing advanced artificial intelligence systems can be misconstrued by a non-profit that aims to be the watchdog for friendly AI development. Prior to the announcement of Elon Musk’s departure from OpenAI’s board, the nonprofit published a paper discussing the possible dangers of AI-based attacks. According to OpenAI’s study, it is now time for policymakers and individuals to be aware of ways that AI-based systems can be used maliciously, especially considering the ever-evolving artificial intelligence landscape.

To conduct the study, OpenAI collaborated with a number of researchers from other organizations, including the Future of Humanity Institute, the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, the Center for a New American Security, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Discussing the findings of their research, the authors of the study wrote that while investigations on the benefits of AI are widespread, studies on the dangers of advanced, intelligent machines are relatively few. As the field of artificial intelligence begins to expand and evolve, OpenAI’s researchers believe that threats associated with the technology would also start to grow and develop.

As noted in the study, artificial intelligence can expand existing threats, since the scalable use of AI technology can be utilized to lower the cost of attacks. With AI, even real-world attacks requiring human labor can be accomplished by machines that could think within and beyond their programming.

OpenAI’s new paper also discussed the emergence of new threats, which could rise through the use of systems that engage in tasks that are impractical for humans. The researchers also advised that the time might soon come when the AI-focused attacks can be finely targeted and challenging to attribute. With these in mind, the OpenAI researchers, together with co-authors of the study, recommended a series of contingencies that policymakers, as well as those involved in the research field, can implement to prevent and address scenarios when intelligent systems can be used maliciously.

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According to the recently published OpenAI paper, the time is right for policymakers to collaborate with technical researchers to investigate, prevent, and mitigate potential malicious uses of artificial intelligence. OpenAI also advised engineers and researchers to acknowledge the dual-use nature of their work, allowing misuse-related considerations to be part of their research priorities. Furthermore, the nonprofit called for more mature methods when addressing AI’s dual-use, especially among stakeholders and domain experts involved in the field.

In conclusion, the OpenAI researchers and their peers admitted that while uncertainties remain in the AI industry, it is almost certain that artificial intelligence will play a huge role in the landscape of the future. With this in mind, a three-pronged approach — consisting of digital security, physical security, and political security — would be a great way to prepare for the upcoming use and possible misuse of artificial intelligence.

Co-founded by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk back in 2015, OpenAI is a nonprofit research firm that aims to create and distribute safe artificial general intelligence (AGI) systems. As we noted in a previous report, OpenAI seems to be giving clues that it is ramping up its activity this year, as shown in a recent job posting for a Recruiting Coordinator who will be tasked to train and onboard the company’s new employees.

Elon Musk left OpenAI due to conflict of interest with Tesla
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