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Elon Musk is suing OpenAI and CEO Sam Altman, with the Tesla founder alleging they violated the artificial intelligence company’s original mission statement by putting profits over benefiting humanity. 

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in San Francisco, comes amid a larger debate over the potential impact of AI, such as that it could produce misleading or harmful information. In the lawsuit, Musk alleges breach of contract and fiduciary duty, among other claims, against OpenAI, Altman and OpenAI President Greg Brockman.

Musk, who helped found OpenAI in 2015, cites the lab’s founding agreement that the company would use its technology to benefit the public and that it would open its technology for public use. Yet OpenAI has veered away from that mission with its latest AI model, GPT-4, which it hasn’t released to the public, the suit alleges.

At the same time, OpenAI has formed commercial ties with Microsoft, which has invested billions in the AI company. Microsoft has integrated OpenAI’s GPT-4 tech into its software programs and developed an AI app called Copilot that’s geared to helping consumers automate various tasks.

The relationship between Microsoft and OpenAI represents “a stark betrayal of the founding agreement,” Musk suit claims.

“Mr. Altman caused OpenAI to radically depart from its original mission and historical practice of making its technology and knowledge available to the public. GPT-4’s internal design was kept and remains a complete secret except to OpenAI — and, on information and belief, Microsoft,” the complaint alleges. “There are no scientific publications describing the design of GPT-4. Instead, there are just press releases bragging about performance.”

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Instead of helping humanity, OpenAI’s tech is now primarily serving Microsoft’s commercial interests, the lawsuit claims. GPT-4 “is now a de facto Microsoft proprietary algorithm,” it alleges.

OpenAI and Microsoft didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

Musk is asking the court to order OpenAI to make its AI models open to the public, and to prohibit it from using its technology to benefit its executives, Microsoft or any other person or company. He also is asking the court to force OpenAI, Altman and Brockman to repay all the money they received from their dealings with Microsoft. 

Musk has more direct interests in the future of artificial intelligence. In 2023 he formed xAI, which recruited researchers from OpenAI and other top tech firms to develop an AI tool called Grok that the startup said wil aim to “maximally benefit all of humanity.”

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