Elon Musk’s xAI Generative AI Company Publicly Debuts
Announcing formation of @xAI to understand reality
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 12, 2023
Twitter and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s newest company xAI has begun its public introduction with a website ahead of an official Twitter Spaces launch at some point on Friday. The unveiling follows months of mysterious maneuvering by Musk around generative AI even as he publicly denounced OpenAI and called for a pause in developing the technology.
“The goal of xAI is to understand the true nature of the universe,” xAI’s website states, without elaboration on what that means.
Besides that ambitious objective. The website is still fairly limited. Notably, the legal boilerplate on the page insists that though xAI “will work closely with X (Twitter), Tesla, and other companies, it is still a separate company from X Corp, the company Musk recently formed to oversee all of his brands. Otherwise, xAI mainly consists of the names and photos of the dozen men leading the company and a boastful overview of their accomplishments at AI research hubs like OpenAI, DeepMind, and Microsoft. xAI also counts Center for AI Safety director Dan Hendrycks as an advisor.
“Collectively we contributed some of the most widely used methods in the field, in particular the Adam optimizer, Batch Normalization, Layer Normalization, and the discovery of adversarial examples,” xAI’s website states. “We have worked on and led the development of some of the largest breakthroughs in the field including AlphaStar, AlphaCode, Inception, Minerva, GPT-3.5, and GPT-4.”
The Wall Street Journal discovered xAI’s incorporation in Nevada in April, though at that point, it consisted solely of Musk and Jared Birchall, who has multiple roles in Musk’s businesses, including as CEO of chip-implant developer Neuralink and managing director of Musk’s family office Excession. Former Google Deepmind and OpenAI engineer Igor Babuschkin and former Deepmind engineer Manuel Kroiss were known to be working with Musk on the project back then as well.
Musk’s interest in his own generative AI company has been clear for many months. At Twitter, he purchased around 10,000 graphics processing units (GPUs) for large language model training. GPUs are both crucial and expensive, priced at $10,000 each from Nvidia. Twitter’s data helped train OpenAI’s models until Musk blocked the company’s access to the data in December. Musk also blamed generative AI models scraping Twitter data when he announced limits on how many tweets people can view. That data could give xAI a boost in developing generative AI tools of its own for things like search and content creation.
xAI’s formation is somewhat at odds with Musk’s organizing and signing an open letter calling for a months-long pause on generative AI training. Hundreds of people, including celebrities and tech pioneers like Steve Wozniak, all signed the request. He’s also frequently criticized OpenAI and its ChatGPT generative AI chatbot, despite his history as a founder of OpenAI who donated $100 million to the company when it was a non-profit. He left in 2018 and has been outspoken against its change to a for-profit model and its decision to partner with Microsoft.