Elon Musk Declines OpenAI Share Offer, Citing Ethical Concerns

Elon Musk's latest comments stir the tech community.

by Nouman Rasool
Elon Musk Declines OpenAI Share Offer, Citing Ethical Concerns
© Omar Marques/Getty Images

"In what is quite the eye-catching revelation, the visionary entrepreneur Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, said he had been offered—but refused to buy—into OpenAI, a cutting-edge artificial intelligence venture.

Musk, himself leaving the company in 2018, has shown shock over the ethical and legal nature of the bid, with an indication it holds the foundation on which he left the firm in high regard. OpenAI was founded in December 2015 with a goal to build "safe and beneficial" AI to ensure that "artificial general intelligence will bring about general benefits to humanity." Musk co-chaired the organisation alongside Sam Altman, and they pledged a considerable investment of $1 billion toward the effort.

However, relations between Musk and the company he had co-founded became strained in 2018 when he left the board of OpenAI. This, he said, was done to avoid potential conflicts of interest especially as Tesla was increasingly zeroing in on AI technologies.

Musk Critiques OpenAI Shift

Musk, even as he exited, was still firing shots at OpenAI, picking mostly on its change in direction of late and its big-name tie-up with Microsoft. It is the criticism coming as the billionaire voiced criticism on what he believes is the organization drifting from its original non-profit ethos towards a more profit-driven one.

The criticism comes at the same time OpenAI is being valued at approximately $80 billion by The New York Times. The evaluation came amidst a new financial arrangement that allowed the staff of OpenAI to liquidate their shares—a move that has sparked a lot of interest in the tech world.

Exactly how many shares Musk was offering in OpenAI, at exactly what time, and by which legal entity was not clear. But his refusal to accept the shares reflected his worry that it would create ethical as well as legal problems.

His position mimics a broader set of arguments that rage through the tech industry on the responsibilities and moral obligations of the AI pioneers and the companies they create. Since the split with OpenAI, his continued involvements in the AI sector have not given way.

Last year, he launched his own AI firm, introducing a chatbot that directly competes with OpenAI's ChatGPT. It is simply one more step in what has been a long, winding path for Musk's complex and evolving relationship with the world of artificial intelligence—a domain he has had immense influence over but continues to remain cautiously skeptical about.

Elon Musk