Billionaire Elon Musk on Wednesday announced that he has formed a new artificial intelligence company called xAI, which has hired researchers from Google, OpenAI and other top technology firms. The goal, Musk tweeted, is “to understand reality.”

xAI is a separate entity from Musk’s other businesses, such as Tesla and Twitter, but will work closely with them, according to the new company’s website.

Musk isn’t a novice to AI given that Tesla uses the technology in its vehicles. While xAI didn’t disclose what projects it will be working on, the company noted that its team of 11 researchers are drawn from top tech companies such as Microsoft Research, DeepMind, OpenAI and Google. 

Musk hinted that the reason he picked July 12, 2023, to announce the debut of xAI is related to a science fiction classic, Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” In his tweet, he noted that adding the date 7-12-23 equals 42, which the novel famously postulates is the answer to life.

“The goal of xAI is to understand the true nature of the universe,” the xAI website states. 

The company said it will be advised by Dan Hendrycks, director of the Center for AI Safety. His group in May warned that AI could pose a “risk of extinction” to humanity on the scale of nuclear war or pandemics. 

In an email to CBS News, Hendrycks singled out where AI could go wrong. 

“AIs could be used by malicious actors to design novel bioweapons more lethal than natural pandemics,” Hendrycks wrote in May. “Alternatively, malicious actors could intentionally release rogue AI that actively attempt to harm humanity. If such an AI was intelligent or capable enough, it may pose significant risk to society as a whole.”

“Truth-seeking AI”

The public unveiling of xAI follows comments Musk made about in April to then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Musk told Carlson that OpenAI’s popular chatbot had a liberal bias and that he planned to develop an alternative tool that would be a “maximum truth-seeking AI that tries to understand the nature of the universe.” 

The startup reflected Musk’s long-voiced concerns about a future in which AI systems could present an existential risk to humanity.

The idea, Musk also told Carlson, is that an AI that wants to understand humanity is less likely to destroy it. Musk was one of the tech leaders who earlier this year called for AI developers to agree to a six-month pause before building systems more powerful than OpenAI’s latest model, GPT-4. Around the same time, he had already been working to start his own AI company, according to Nevada business records.

—With reporting by the Associated Press.





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