Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur, announced the formation of a new artificial intelligence (AI) company called xAI on Wednesday. The company has recruited researchers from prominent technology firms including Google and OpenAI, with the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of reality, as stated by Musk in a tweet.
xAI will operate independently from Musk’s other ventures, such as Tesla and Twitter, but will maintain close collaboration with them, according to the company’s website. While specific projects have not been disclosed, xAI highlighted that its team of 11 researchers is comprised of experts from renowned tech companies like Microsoft Research, DeepMind, OpenAI, and Google.
Announcing formation of @xAI to understand reality
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 12, 2023
Musk hinted that the chosen date for announcing xAI’s debut, July 12, 2023, held significance related to the science fiction classic “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. Musk’s tweet explained that the numerical representation of the date, 7-12-23, equates to 42, famously known in the novel as the answer to life.
The stated objective of xAI, according to its website, is to comprehend the true nature of the universe. The company also revealed that it will receive guidance from Dan Hendrycks, the director of the Center for AI Safety. In May, Hendrycks’s team warned about the potential “risk of extinction” that AI could pose to humanity, comparable to nuclear war or pandemics.
In an email to CBS News, Hendrycks highlighted areas where AI could lead to problems, such as the design of deadly bioweapons by malicious actors or the intentional release of rogue AI that seeks to harm humanity. If such AI systems possessed high intelligence or capability, they could present significant risks to society.
What are the most fundamental unanswered questions?
— xAI (@xai) July 12, 2023
The public introduction of xAI follows Musk’s earlier comments in April to then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson, where he expressed concerns about AI bias and his plans to develop an alternative AI tool that seeks maximum truth and a profound understanding of the universe.
Musk’s involvement in xAI aligns with his longstanding worries about the existential risks associated with advanced AI systems. He previously joined other tech leaders in calling for a six-month pause in the development of more powerful AI models beyond OpenAI’s GPT-4. Records from Nevada business filings indicate that Musk had already been working on establishing his own AI company around the same time.