xAI: The game of catching up

Understanding Musk's X-Universe

Elon Musk has had dreams and concerns about AI for a long time. This July, his AI lab xAI celebrates its first year, and it’s already among the few most important generative AI unicorns with a recent valuation of over $24 billion. Despite controversies, xAI’s rapid progress with Grok-1 has sparked curiosity and skepticism. What are Musk’s plans, how does he X-utilize his assets to create Muskonomy, and what lies ahead for xAI and its main creation, Grok? Let’s investigate!

In today’s episode:

  1. Starting point of xAI: out of controversies 

  2. Musk’s speed: a new model in one month, an AI unicorn in just a few

  3. More detailed tech specs

  4. Still lagging behind on compute: what’s the plan?

  5. X-ing it all together – Muskonomy

  6. But there is a problem: Another controversy and a lawsuit

  7. Who’s behind xAI? 

  8. Mission

  9. Investment situation

  10. Instead of conclusion: Reflective Note on AGI and Community

Starting point of xAI: out of controversies 

In 2015, Elon Musk supported Sam Altman’s idea of spinning up an AI lab through YC with the goal of building safe human-level AI. Elon even suggested the name: Open AI. Knowing his obsession with inserting X in all his companies, one might argue he didn’t want this lab to be his initially, but he was really a keen supporter. According to Greg Brockman’s memories: “I was struck by how inquisitive Elon was, and how much he sought others' opinions and really listened to them.”

As we wrote in our OpenAI profile, everything changed in 2018: Elon Musk resigned from the board, officially due to the potential conflict of interest between Tesla and OpenAI, but most likely because he couldn't take over the company and run it his way. Tesla was indeed using machine learning and AI quite extensively, but Elon didn’t demonstrate any signs that he wanted to start his own AI lab to pursue human-level AI. His goal seemed to trash Sam Altman and OpenAI.

Especially when OpenAI split the world into before and after with their ChatGPT in November 2022. A month before that, in October 2022 – at that point unrelated completely – another important event happened. As the New York Times put it: “After months of waffling, lawsuits, verbal mudslinging, and the near miss of a full-blown trial, Elon Musk now owns Twitter.” A gold mine for data. But at first, he kept his course trashing OpenAI everywhere and even signed the famous Pause in AI training letter, in March 2023, advocating a halt for six months.

But how can you resist when you have enormous financial resources, billions of data points in your hands, a wounded ego, and you are Elon Musk? You simply can’t. So, no matter the call for a halt in AI research, in July 2023, Musk, of course, launched his own company. Now we know for sure he is serious about it because he calls it xAI.

Musk’s speed: a new model in one month, an AI unicorn in just a few

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