Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk has sued AI major OpenAI and its chief executive officer (CEO) Sam Altman, among others, for the breach of founding agreement and fiduciary duty, and unfair business practices, a lawsuit filed on Thursday in San Francisco says.

The plaintiff in the case, Elon Musk wants OpenAI, one of the biggest AI companies in the world valued at $80 billion, to adhere to the founding agreement and return to its original mission to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI) for the benefit of humanity and not for technology giant Microsoft.

Musk has attacked OpenAI for a multi-billionaire-dollar alliance with Microsoft, which, it alleges, stands to make a fortune selling GPT-4 to the public, which would not be possible if OpenAI had not acted contrary to the founding agreement, says the lawsuit.

The events of 2023 constitute “flagrant breaches” of the Founding Agreement, which defendants Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, and corporation OpenAI, have essentially turned on their heads, Musk stated via the lawsuit. “In 2023, Defendants Mr. Altman, Mr. Brockman, and OpenAI set the Founding Agreement aflame.”

He alleges that to this day, OpenAI, Inc.’s website continues to profess that its charter is to ensure that AGI “benefits all of humanity.” In reality, alleges Musk, it has been transformed into a “closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft”.

He says under its new board, OpenAI is not just developing but is refining an AGI to “maximise profits for Microsoft, rather than for the benefit of humanity”.

OpenAI has not issued any statement on the matter so far.

Elon Musk had helped set the foundation of OpenAI, along with other founding members including Altman and Brockman. The Tesla CEO said in 2015, Altman had approached Musk with a proposal to join forces to form "a non-profit AI lab" that would try to catch up to Google in the race for AGI, but it would be the opposite of Google.

As per the agreement, they had agreed to set up a new lab, which would be a nonprofit developing AGI for the benefit of humanity, and that it would be open-source.

However, Musk left the OpenAI board three years later in 2018. After he left, the company set up a for-profit unit and received around $13 billion in investment from tech behemoth Microsoft.

Accusations say defendants “radically” departed from their mission in breach of the founding agreement. “GPT-4 is an entirely closed model. The internal design of GPT-4 remains a secret and no code has been released. The internal details of GPT-4 are known only to OpenAI. GPT-4 is hence the opposite of “open AI”, the lawsuit says.

It says OpenAI’s entire development is veiled in secrecy and the public only has rumours and isolated fragments of communications to understand what may be released next.

Notably, reports earlier had said that OpenAI was developing a secretive algorithm called Q*. “It appears Q* may now or in the future be a part of an even clearer and more striking example of artificial general intelligence that OpenAI has developed,” the lawsuit says, adding that as an AGI, it would be explicitly outside the scope of OpenAI’s license with Microsoft, and must be made available for the benefit of the public at large.

Musk for long has recognised that AGI poses a grave threat to humanity. He had earlier said that it poses the greatest existential threat to humanity. Elon Musk's company xAI is also developing an AI-based chatbot, Grok, touted to be a rival of Open AI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard. Musk says Grok will ensure AI tools provide maximum benefit to humanity by helping users access relevant information quickly, process data and come up with new ideas.

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