September 28, 2023

Musk’s new AI company, xAI, will focus on solving scientific mysteries

Elon Musk took to Twitter to talk about his new artificial intelligence company, xAI, outlining a goal of building a super-intelligent AI that could help solve complex science and math questions and “understand” the universe ‘.

During a live audio event on the social media platform, Musk’s team of all-male math, AI, and engineering experts spoke about how they wanted to create an AI that was smarter than humans with the goal of benefiting society. Musk said the company’s fundamental goal is to understand “what’s really going on.”

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The event showed how Musk initially appears to be more focused on answering deep scientific questions, rather than competing directly with OpenAI, Google and Microsoft to create AI products for consumers. Musk did say he saw his venture as an alternative to larger AI companies, but said xAI was still “embryonic” and it would take time to catch up with OpenAI and Google.

The new wave of AI tools has surprised many artificial intelligence experts with their capabilities, and some leaders in the field have pushed up their timelines for how many years it will take for an AI creation to be generally smarter and more capable than any human. But current technology works by predicting what image or word to use next, and there’s no evidence they can solve unanswered scientific questions. Many AI researchers say human-level AI could be many decades away, if it ever comes to fruition.

Musk said questions about the nature of dark matter or unsolved aspects of how gravity works could be one of the mysteries his company is trying to explain. He spoke at length about the “Fermi Paradox” – a theoretical question that asks why humans have not yet discovered aliens and that technological civilizations usually self-destruct, or are destroyed by an outside force, before traveling to other solar systems.

Jimmy Ba, a University of Toronto professor and well-known AI researcher who joined Musk’s company, said the goal is to create an AI that can help with a range of problems facing humanity.

“How can we build a general-purpose problem-solving machine to help all of us, humanity, overcome the most challenging and ambitious problems out there, and how can we use those tools to empower and empower ourselves,” said Ba.

Musk, who has criticized existing chatbots for being politically correct, said his company’s AI could offend people for speaking the “truth.”

Musk has been outspoken about AI for years, famously saying in 2014 that inventing super-intelligent computers would be like “summoning the demon” and could pose an existential threat to humanity. He helped found ChatGPT creator OpenAI in 2015, but left the company in 2018 after disagreements with the other leaders. In recent months, he has complained about OpenAI and other AI companies scraping Twitter data to help train their bots.

Tesla, the publicly traded electric vehicle company of which Musk is the primary owner, has a robust AI team that has been working on the cars’ self-driving ability for years. Musk has said his new AI venture will work closely with both Twitter and Tesla. Investors have criticized Musk for using Tesla funds to help his other ventures, especially Twitter.

“We’re going to be working with Tesla on silicon and maybe on AI software,” Musk said, referring to Tesla’s custom silicon computer chips. “Obviously, any relationship with Tesla must be a business transaction because Tesla is a public company with a different investor base.”

Training the “big language models” that form the backbone of modern AI tools requires huge amounts of data and stacks of computers to process all the information – an extremely expensive process. Tesla has significant computing power and has used it in developing self-driving technology.

At the Twitter event, Musk said his company would need computing power, but suggested it wouldn’t be as much as other companies. The team would remain relatively small, said Igor Babuschkin, a former Google and OpenAI researcher who joined xAI.

Musk initially postponed the start of the event to wait for more listeners. He said he was tweaking Twitter’s algorithm to make the space visible to more people. About 34,000 people listened when it started.

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