Big Tech




The Boxing Match Between Sam Altman And Elon Musk

Co-authored by and Nick Saraev

- Cover Imagery created by Midjourney

In the world of tech giants, disagreements are often settled behind closed doors. 

However, when two industry behemoths like Sam Altman and Elon Musk face off, the world can't help but take notice. Though Altman and Musk have been united by their common goal to advance AI technology, the road they've chosen to traverse has diverged, leading to a proverbial boxing match between these two titans.

The Disagreements and Separation Early On

Once united under the umbrella of OpenAI, a collaborative effort to advance AI research and development, Sam Altman and Elon Musk have had their fair share of disagreements. 

While specific details of their disputes have not been made public, it's evident that their differences in opinion eventually led to their separation, with each seeking to realize their AI visions independently.

Musk's proposal to takeover of the company as CEO early on was rejected, this may have caused some animosity. This stemmed from a desire to push OpenAI further, as he believed Google was quickly advancing in the industry and leaving OpenAI behind. However, his proposal was met with resistance from other co-founders including Greg Brockman, current President of Open AI (and the time CEO), who felt that Musk's vision for Open AI did not align with their own goals for the venture.

At the time Musk stated his reasoning for later leaving the company and Board of Directors was rooted in the conflict of interest between that of Tesla, and the machine learning research that his team was working on.

At the time of his departure, Open AI was still a non-profit that Elon was invested in the tune 100 million dollars.

One notable disagreement between the two visionaries could be inferred from their views on AI regulation and corporate control. 

Elon Musk has been a vocal advocate for increased regulatory oversight in AI development, concerned about the potential dangers of unchecked AI growth. On the other hand, Sam Altman has been more focused on self-regulation within the AI community and promoting a cooperative, transparent approach to AI research.

In addition to Open AI, Elon was an investor in Deepmind (now Google's DeepMind) prior to Google acquiring them in 2014.

Open AI and Microsoft

Elon tweeted March 23, 2023
“I’m still confused as to how a non-profit to which I donated ~$100M somehow became a $30B market cap for-profit. If this is legal, why doesn’t everyone do it?”

Many in the AI community have been anxious about OpenAI's corporate turn from a non-profit to for profit including Musk, seeing it as an abandonment of their founding principles and a rush to develop new products without due consideration for potential risks. There is also the question of open source vs closed source debated amongst the AI community.

Elon was to invest 1 Billion dollars early on in it's history and as reconfirmed by his tweet, ended up providing about 10% of the originally promised billion. It is unclear how this change in investment could have changed the trajectory of OpenAI. Could this have influenced Open AI to seek the $1 Billion of funding from Microsoft initially? Since then Microsoft has invested an additional 10 Billion into the company.

Here is another one of Elon's tweets on the matter:

Elon Signs the AI Pause Letter, Then Launches X.AI

Elon Musk, who has been known for his unpredictability and ambitious endeavors, signed the AI Pause Letter, a public pledge advocating for a temporary 6 month halt to AI development to ensure responsible progress. 

However, mere weeks later, Musk launched X.AI, a competitor product to OpenAI's offerings. This seemingly contradictory move left many wondering whether Musk still cared about the pause he had advocated for.

Here is Sam's response to the Wall Street Journal Article announcing Elon's new company X.AI: using one word "Concerning"

Why This Matters to Elon

Despite the confusion surrounding Musk's actions, it's clear that AI development remains a priority for the tech mogul. 

With projects like Neuralink and Tesla's Autopilot system under his belt, Musk has demonstrated his commitment to integrating AI into everyday life. The launch of X.AI further underscores his determination to lead the charge in AI innovation, even if it means deviating from his initial stance on the AI Pause.

Sam's Stance

While Elon Musk appears to have changed gears, Sam Altman remains committed to Open AI's mission. As the CEO, Altman has secured funding with Microsoft, which has allowed him to oversee several significant advancements in AI technology, such as the development of GPT-4, which has revolutionized natural language processing. 

While he may not hold founding equity in OpenAI, Altman remains an influential figure in the AI community and Open AI, championing responsible development and the pursuit of beneficial AI.

Does Elon Still Care About the Pause?

It's difficult to say for certain whether Elon Musk still cares about the AI Pause. 

His actions seemingly contradict his initial support for the temporary halt of AI development. However, it's important to remember that Musk has consistently expressed concern about the potential dangers of unchecked AI growth. 

It's possible that his decision to launch X.AI was driven by a desire to ensure the responsible development of AI technology under his watchful eye, rather than leaving it to other, less cautious players in the industry. The concept of TruthGPT is based on just that a more reliable and ethical AI partner but can one support an AI pause and simultaneously launch an AI competitor?

Fighting Woke AI

Elon Musk has not shied away from sharing his concerns about the potential consequences of AI development, especially regarding what he calls "Woke AI." 

This term refers to AI systems that may adopt political or social biases, leading to potentially harmful real-world effects. In his pursuit of AI innovation, Musk seems determined to address these concerns and ensure that the technology he helps create remains focused on benefiting humanity as a whole and being as truthful as possible. An alternative view that could also be gleaned is that Elon is interested in sparking a culture war between conservatives, liberals and lesser so, independents.

Here is an example of where Musk responded to a Tweet that shows ChatGPT:

Here is a Musk meme on Woke AI:

What is Woke?

It is to be noted that, “woke” has become a tool for conservative politicians to attack their opponents by labeling them as “too woke” or overly focused on social justice causes. This is often done with the intention of painting progressive and liberal politicians as out of touch and unrealistic in their approach to problems, while simultaneously portraying themselves as the more reasonable option.

Overall, it’s important to remember that “woke” was originally a term used by activists to rally around social justice causes.

Elon Musk stated in October 2022 during the acquisition from Twitter that he was a "Free Speech Absolutist". Since then he has temporally banned independent journalists from Twitter, temporarily banned links to Substack, a writing platform (and a perceived competitor) on Twitter and has banned liberal and progressive journalists from the platform.

Topics such as gay marriage and living wage would have been considered "Woke" in Elons definition a few decades ago. 30 years ago, most conservatives would have been vehemently opposed to either one. But today many conservatives are in favor of both issues, although not as unanimously as with the ban on smoking. This shows how far the Overton window has shifted due to liberal activists pushing for progress and demanding change.

The Overton Window is an ever-changing concept, and it's important for people to be aware of the issues that are shifting public opinion and discourse so that they can better understand the political climate of our society today. By understanding this concept, we can gain insight into how movements in our society come to fruition and make a lasting impact.  It is clear that the Overton window has shifted dramatically in recent years, and it is likely to continue shifting as different movements and ideologies gain more traction. Ultimately, this will allow for a better understanding of our current political landscape and may even lead to positive change in our society plus an acceptance to promote discourse on topics that may be deemed to "woke" today.

Another topic that has been referred to as "woke" are trans issues and that of gender pronouns (which Elon regularly tweets mockingly).

Here is one of those tweets:

The Future of AI Development: Competitive or Collaborative?

In the wake of the disagreements and separation between Sam Altman and Elon Musk, the question arises: is the future of AI development better served through collaboration or competition? 

Collaboration offers several advantages in the pursuit of AI innovation such as 

  • Research and Development: By pooling resources, knowledge, and expertise, collaborative efforts like OpenAI can accelerate research and development. 
  • Transparency: This approach fosters a more transparent environment, allowing the AI community to address potential ethical concerns and challenges collectively. 
  • Knowledge Sharing: Collaborative environments promote the sharing of knowledge, enabling researchers to learn from one another and expand their understanding of AI technologies. 

Competition, on the other hand, has its own advantages: 

  • Innovation: Competition can serve as a powerful motivator, encouraging researchers and organizations to push the boundaries of AI technology. 
  • Market Efficiency: A competitive landscape can lead to increased market efficiency as organizations strive to develop better products and services at lower costs. 
  • Diversification of Solutions: Competition can also promote the development of diverse AI solutions, as different organizations and researchers pursue unique approaches to tackle complex problems.

However, it’s important to be aware that competition can be a double-edged sword, as in the race of innovation, there could be a race to the bottom in terms of ethical considerations. 

It's worth noting that the line between collaboration and competition isn't necessarily black and white. In some cases, a blend of both approaches may be the most effective way to drive AI innovation responsibly.

Ultimately, the future of AI development will likely be shaped by a combination of collaboration and competition, as visionaries like Sam Altman and Elon Musk continue to pursue their unique visions for AI's future.


‘Elon is obviously attacking us' - Sam Altman

The following is some proverbial punches between Sam and Elon over the past couple months:

I have empathy because I believe he is, understandably so, really stressed about AGI safety" - Altman

"I really put a lot of effort into creating this organization to serve as a counterweight to Google," - Musk

"And then I kind of took my eye off the ball, I guess, and they (OpenAI) are now closed-source and they are obviously for-profit and they're closely allied with Microsoft. In effect, Microsoft has a very strong say, if not directly controls, OpenAI at this point." - Musk

"Despite him being a jerk on Twitter, I'm glad that he exists in the world. I wish he would do more to look at the hard work we're doing," - Altman said in a recent interview on the Lex Friedman Podcast

The Final Bell

The boxing match between Sam Altman and Elon Musk is an ongoing battle between two visionaries and founders with differing approaches to AI development. 

While their paths may have diverged, they both share a common goal of advancing AI technology responsibly and ensuring its positive impact on society. 

In this ever-evolving arena, only time will tell which titan will come out on top. But one thing is certain: as the battle wages on, we'll all be watching with bated breath to see who pulls out on top at the final bell.