OpenAI goes public with Musk emails, claiming he backed for-profit plans

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OpenAI has responded to Elon Musk's lawsuit over an alleged breach of contract, publishing a trove of emails that appear to show Musk was not only aware of the need to become a for-profit entity, but also wanted to merge OpenAI into Tesla and become CEO.

"We're sad that it's come to this with someone whom we've deeply admired," Sam Altman and the rest of the leadership at the AI darling said, before reproducing a raft of emails purporting to come from Musk regarding funding and the position of OpenAI.

According to OpenAI: "When starting OpenAI in late 2015, Greg [Brockman] and Sam [Altman] had initially planned to raise $100M. Elon said in an email: 'We need to go with a much bigger number than $100M to avoid sounding hopeless… I think we should say that we are starting with a $1B funding commitment… I will cover whatever anyone else doesn't provide.'"

Things did not turn out that way. OpenAI went on to claim that by late 2017, its board and Musk decided to create a for-profit entity, but allegedly Musk wanted majority equity and to be CEO. He is also accused in the post of withholding funding, which OpenAI claimed meant Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn, had to step in to cover salaries and operations.

It claims Musk departed the company after forwarding the execs an email suggesting that OpenAI should "attach to Tesla as its cash cow" and commenting that it was "exactly right" in February 2018. OpenAI later launched a for-profit unit, attracting approximately $13 billion in Microsoft investment.

The Tesla CEO and SpaceX supremo filed a lawsuit against OpenAI last Friday, alleging a breach of contract both in its move away from open technology and its original mission.

Musk's complaints focus on his work co-founding OpenAI in 2015 and its model of developing AI for the "benefit of humanity" as a non-profit organization. However, the emails shared by OpenAI yesterday appear to show Musk was aware that more funding was needed to build an artificial general intelligence (AGI) than initially anticipated.

Conspicuously absent from OpenAI's response was the word "Microsoft." Large sections of Musk's original complaint in last week's lawsuit center around the licensing of OpenAI technology to Microsoft and what rights the company may or may not have to OpenAI's AGI development.

OpenAI said Musk "inspired us to aim higher, then told us we would fail, started a competitor, and then sued us when we started making meaningful progress towards OpenAI's mission without him."

"We intend to move to dismiss all of Elon's claims."

The Register has contacted Musk's legal team, offering it the opportunity to respond, but it declined to comment. ®

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