Musk Sues OpenAI, Altman Over Alleged Shift from Non-Profit Mission

Elon Musk, one of the co-founders of OpenAI, has filed a lawsuit against the company, his co-founders, affiliated corporations and undisclosed parties. He accuses them of violating OpenAI’s non-profit status and the founding agreement by prioritizing financial gains. Musk alleges in his lawsuit that OpenAI has turned into a closed-source subsidiary of Microsoft in effect. Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion and owns 49 percent of OpenAI, uses its technology for generative AI tools like Copilot.

According to the lodged lawsuit, OpenAI is alleged to be formulating and honing an artificial general intelligence (AGI) under its current administration to maximize Microsoft’s profits rather than benefiting humanity. The lawsuit defines AGI as “a machine capable of carrying out a wide range of tasks similarly as a human.” Musk asserts in the lawsuit that GPT-4 is akin to AGI and it’s “effectively a Microsoft proprietary algorithm.”

Musk has often voiced his concerns about AGI, arguing that the hypothetical technology could be catastrophic for humanity, especially if wielded by a closed, profit-oriented firm like Google. OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman, and co-founder Greg Brockman, according to the lawsuit, persuaded Musk to aid in the establishment and funding of the non-profit to counterbalance Google’s progression in the AGI area via DeepMind.

In Musk’s claim, he donated $44 million to the non-profit between 2016 and 2020. Musk later rejected an offer to own a stake in OpenAI’s for-profit division, holding to his principles, despite leaving the OpenAI board in 2018.

Musk’s statement followed the introduction of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022 and its competition with other tech corporations to produce superior generative AI tools. With the launch of xAI’s ChatGPT rival Grok on his social platform, X, Musk joined the competition.

Following Altman’s unexpected reinstatement after being ousted by OpenAI’s board in November, he is said to have selected a new cohort of directors, noted for their business acumen rather than technical expertise. Microsoft was designated as a non-voting observer. “The new board is comprised of members experienced in profit-driven businesses or politics rather than AI ethics and governance,” the lawsuit alleges.

Accusations in the lawsuit include breach of contract, breach of fiduciary responsibility, and unfair business practices. Musk demands that OpenAI adhere to its original non-profit mission and be prohibited from monetizing technology developed and cultivated under its non-profit status.

Regulators in the US, UK and European Union are reportedly examining OpenAI’s partnership with Microsoft. Reports also suggest that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether OpenAI deceived investors.

Responding to the lawsuit, OpenAI expressed strong disagreement in internal memos. Jason Kwon, Chief Strategy Officer, denied any subservient relationship with Microsoft, while Sam Altman expressed admiration for Musk and voiced regret over the current situation.