27 February 2018

The Verge: “Elon Musk leaves board of AI safety group to avoid conflict of interest with Tesla”

Tech billionaire Elon Musk is leaving the board of OpenAI, the nonprofit research group he co-founded with Y Combinator president Sam Altman to study the ethics and safety of artificial intelligence.

The move was announced in a short blog post, explaining that Musk is leaving in order to avoid a conflict of interest between OpenAI’s work and the machine learning research done by Tesla to develop autonomous driving. As Tesla continues to become more focused on AI, this will eliminate a potential future conflict for Elon, says the post. Musk will stay on as a donator to OpenAI and will continue to advise the group.

James Vincent

First (obvious) reaction to this: ‘so Tesla is planning on developing AI that is either unethical, or not safe’?! That would be rather bad for their customers…

On second thought, another explanation seems more likely: one of OpenAI’s objectives is to share research results publicly, in order to prevent any one company from gaining a monopoly on AI innovation. Presumably, Elon Musk is planning to keep Tesla’s research on autonomous driving secret, so that could very well be the source of the conflict of interest. But that makes Musk a hypocrite for founding this nonprofit in the first place, if he doesn’t believe in the principles formulated back then.

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