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DeepMind and Microsoft, with goal to ‘understand the true nature of the universe’ Semrushtools

Elon Musk, who has hinted for months that he wants to build an alternative to the popular ChatGPT artificial intelligence chatbot, announced the formation of what he’s calling xAI, a company with a mission to “understand the true nature of the universe.” 

On a website unveiled Wednesday, xAI said its team will be led by Musk and staffed by executives who have worked at a broad range of companies at the forefront of artificial intelligence, including Google’s DeepMind, Microsoft Corp. and Tesla Inc., as well as academic institutions such as the University of Toronto.

Musk was involved in the creation of OpenAI, the highest-profile AI startup and developer of ChatGPT. But he has frequently and publicly criticized OpenAI since he left the board in 2018, especially after it created a for-profit arm the following year. He has said he believes it to be “effectively controlled by Microsoft.” Microsoft has invested some $13 billion into OpenAI.

Despite his work in AI, Musk has expressed deep reservations about the technology. The billionaire was among a group of researchers and tech industry leaders who in March called for developers to pause the training of powerful AI models.

Of the 12 men, including Musk, listed on the website Wednesday morning, a majority previously worked at Google in some capacity, or at its London-based artificial intelligence unit, DeepMind. One, Christian Szegedy, spent years as a research scientist at the company. Other former Googlers are Igor Babuschkin, Zizhang Dai, Tony Wu and Toby Pohlen.

Musk’s startup has also added two academics from the University of Toronto, Guodong Zhang and Jimmy Ba, an assistant professor at who studied under AI pioneer Geoffrey Hinton. Both Ba and Zhang list a DeepMind internship on their CVs. 

Ba is one of the best known hires announced by xAI Wednesday. He is the co-author, with Diederik Kingma, of a 2014 paper on optimization in deep learning known as the “Adam” paper. It is the most-cited paper in artificial intelligence, with 95,460 citations, according to the scientific networking site ResearchGate.

Ba “has a unique brain,” said Deval Pandya, director of AI engineering at the Vector Institute, a Canadian nonprofit organization dedicated to AI research, where Ba also worked as a researcher. “He has achieved a lot of originality in methods compared to his peers,” Pandya said.

Ba is currently on leave from the university, according to computer science department chair, Eyal de Lara, and is also on leave from Vector, according to the institute’s website.  

Though Musk is a frequent critic of San Francisco, the xAI website says that the company is “actively recruiting experienced engineers and researchers” to work “in the Bay Area.” So far, most AI development has been concentrated in Silicon Valley. 

Musk and Jared Birchall, who operates Musk’s family office, incorporated a business called X.AI in March, according to a Nevada state filing with the Secretary of State. 

In April, the Financial Times reported that Musk was holding discussions with investors of his other companies, Tesla and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., about helping fund an AI startup, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. The billionaire has acquired thousands of processors from Nvidia Corp. for the new project, the paper said.

The xAI website said the company is being advised by Dan Hendrycks, who is the director of the Center for AI Safety — a group that has warned about what it sees as existential dangers of developing AI quickly. This spring, it released a letter of caution signed by chief executive officers of some of the leading companies in AI, including Alphabet Inc.’s DeepMind and OpenAI.

Musk, 52, now oversees six companies: Tesla, SpaceX, Twitter, Neuralink, Boring Co. and now xAI. In regulatory filings, Tesla says the auto giant is “increasingly focused on products and services based on artificial intelligence, robotics and automation.” Tesla’s website invites people to help “build the future of artificial intelligence” with a variety of products, from the “Tesla Bot” known as Optimus to AI interface chips that will run the electric automaker’s automated driving software.

Musk has a long history of borrowing engineers from one company to help out at another, as the contours of his ever-expanding empire bleed into one another. Tesla and SpaceX share a vice president of materials engineering, for example, and engineers from Tesla “volunteered” to work at Twitter after Musk bought the company for $44 billion in October. 

The xAI website says that it is a “separate company from X Corp,” the parent company that Musk merged Twitter into earlier this year, but that it will “work closely with X (Twitter), Tesla, and other companies.”

Musk’s dramatic entrance into the AI world has attracted notice from existing companies.“Elon is one of the great entrepreneurs of our time,” said Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and of the startup Inflection AI. Hoffman, a former board member of OpenAI, said that Musk had the credentials to advance the development of the technology. 

In response to a question about the lack of women on the xAI founding team, Hoffman said it was important to have “inclusive voices” in the industry. He also criticized Musk’s call for a pause on AI development, which Musk signed onto before launching the company. 



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