Dezeen Magazine

Elon Musk against blue background

Elon Musk launches xAI startup "to understand reality"

US entrepreneur Elon Musk has announced the launch of an AI startup, xAI, that he says will take a new approach to making the technology safe.

The Twitter owner and Tesla and SpaceX CEO unveiled xAI on Wednesday, tweeting that it would seek "to understand reality".

"The goal of xAI is to understand the true nature of the universe," a short statement on the company's website said.

"Best thing" for AI safety

News agency Reuters reported that in a Twitter Spaces event held late on Wednesday, Musk suggested that the idea behind xAI was to build an AI that is made safer by its own curiosity, as opposed to being programmed to have morality – a process referred to as alignment.

"If it tried to understand the true nature of the universe, that's actually the best thing that I can come up with from an AI safety standpoint," he said.

"I think it is going to be pro-humanity from the standpoint that humanity is just much more interesting than not-humanity."

Musk has hired several engineers who previously worked at ChatGPT creator OpenAI and Google for xAI. The two companies are working to develop artificial general intelligence – meaning an AI model that is able to complete any intellectual task that a human can.

Staff have worked on "some of the largest breakthroughs in the field"

The xAI website lists 12 staff including Musk, all of whom are men, and states that the company is "actively recruiting experienced engineers and researchers". It also names Center for AI Safety director Dan Hendrycks as an advisor.

"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," a section of accompanying text states.

Musk was a co-founder of OpenAI but has been critical of the firm since leaving in 2018.

In an interview with Fox News in April, he claimed that ChatGPT has a liberal bias, adding that he was planning a "maximum truth-seeking AI that tries to understand the nature of the universe".

Musk has repeatedly issued warnings about the danger that artificial intelligence (AI) poses to humanity.

In March, he was among the signatories of an open letter calling for a pause on the development of systems more powerful than GPT-4, the most advanced version of chatbot ChatGPT which is not yet widely accessible to the public.

He has also made comments about OpenAI's transition from a non-profit to a for-profit model and its relationship with financial backer Microsoft.

Musk is also working on a number of physical projects, including building housing for the employees of his infrastructure firm the Boring Company and a Boring Company tunnel network underneath Las Vegas.

The photo is by Dan Taylor.

Illustration by Selina Yau


This article is part of Dezeen's AItopia series, which explores the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on design, architecture and humanity, both now and in the future.