Elon Musk vows to make his ChatGPT competitor Grok open source

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Today, Elon Musk, the billionaire behind Tesla, SpaceX and many other companies, announced that his AI startup xAI will open-source its Grok large language model this week.

The move would be a significant symbol of Musk putting his “money where his mouth is,” rhetorically speaking, after filing a lawsuit against his former company OpenAI and its leadership for failing to live up to the “open” implications of its name. It would also add a new option to the growing open source generative AI community, alongside Google, Meta and Mistral — all of which have released powerful open source AI models, and to the increasing number of companies relying on open source generative AI to power products as a cheaper and potentially more customizable option, though less powerful, than OpenAI’s closed GPT-4.

The exact date or the detail to which Grok will be open-sourced remains unclear (whether it is fully open source for commercial purposes, research only, and whether its full weights and balances will be released, for instance). Musk nor xAI have provided much more in the weigh of concrete details at the time of this article’s posting.

But it is notable given the promise comes just weeks after Musk filed a lawsuit against OpenAI, the company he co-founded alongside current CEO Sam Altman and others, but left following disagreements over leadership and direction.

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In the suit, Musk alleges OpenAI has violated its “founding agreement” by keeping GPT-4, the large language model (LLM) that powers ChatGPT Plus and other products, closed and private — except to OpenAI investor Microsoft. 

“OpenAI is a lie,” he wrote on X soon after announcing the decision to open-source Grok. 

What does Grok bring to the table?

Announced in November 2023, Grok is the large language model that powers xAI’s ChatGPT rival — also called Grok. It’s available on X, formerly known as Twitter, as part of the platform’s top-tier ‘Premium+’ subscription priced at $16 per month.

The company describes the AI as one modeled after “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” that can answer almost anything to assist humanity in its quest for understanding and knowledge – regardless of background or political views. It first released a prototype LLM, Grok-0, with 33 billion parameters and then followed it up with Grok-1, which has gone through multiple iterations and continues to power the Grok chatbot on X.

On benchmarks such as GSM8K, HumanEval and MMLU, shared by xAI, Grok-1 beats Llama-2-70B and GPT-3.5 but still sits behind GPT-4, which continues to be one of the best-performing LLMs out there alongside the recently-introduced Claude 3 Opus. 

However, what makes Grok different from these models is its training on X data and a unique sense of humor. The model has access to real-time user-generated posts and information, which enables it to provide answers about the most recent topics of interest, be it a political event or a football match, with a touch of wit and sometimes even sarcasm.

Separately but relatedly, Musk has denied reports his startup xAI is seeking to raise billions from outside investors.

Open Grok strengthens Musk’s case against OpenAI

While it remains to be seen what aspects of Grok-1 will be open-sourced by xAI and how the model is put to use by the community, the move from Musk will certainly back his lawsuit against OpenAI, filed earlier this month.

Musk has alleged in the lawsuit that when he founded OpenAI with Altman in 2015, the goal was to build open-source AI for the benefit of humanity — acting as a counterbalance to for-profit Google. However, since his departure, the lab has gone off course and started working with Microsoft, essentially becoming its closed-source de-facto subsidiary developing and refining AGI for profits.

He has called out OpenAI for this change of tactic on multiple occasions and even suggested that it should change its name to “ClosedAI”. Following the news of the lawsuit, many questioned Musk on why xAI has not open-sourced its technology — which he appears to be addressing now.

That said, while Musk is backing his case publicly by making Grok open source, it is important to note that OpenAI has clarified its stance on the matter and says it will seek to dismiss all claims by the billionaire.

In a public blog post last week, OpenAI provided email transcripts from the time of the company’s founding and afterwards showing that Musk did not push back on the idea of OpenAI forming a for-profit entity to raise enough money to continue its mission of achieving artificial generalized intelligence (AGI).

In one of the email conversations, chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said going less open “will make sense” as OpenAI gets closer to building AGI and Musk responded “yup.”

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