Elon Musk’s new AI company aims to ‘understand the universe’

Elon Musk has just formed a new company that will seek to “understand the true nature of the universe.” No biggie, then.

Announced on Wednesday, the company, xAI, already has among its ranks artificial intelligence (AI) experts formerly of firms such as DeepMind, OpenAI, Google Research, Microsoft Research, and Tesla.

The website for Musk’s new company currently comprises a single page with a profile of its top team and a call for experienced engineers and researchers to join the company in the Bay Area, San Francisco. It also includes the line: “The goal of xAI is to understand the true nature of the universe.”

Meanwhile, in a tweet announcing the new initiative, Musk said xAI will aim to “understand reality.”

Announcing formation of @xAI to understand reality

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 12, 2023

xAI co-founder Greg Yang, a senior software engineer who’s worked at Apple, Google, and Microsoft, tweeted that the “mathematics of deep learning is profound, beautiful, and unreasonably effective,” adding that “developing the ‘theory of everything’ for large neural networks will be central to taking AI to the next level.” Yang added: “Conversely, this AI will enable everyone to understand our mathematical universe in ways unimaginable before.”

There’s really not a lot of other information about the ambitious-sounding endeavor at this time. However, xAI is planning to hold a Twitter Spaces event at a currently unspecified time on Friday, July 14, so more details should be revealed then.

It’s been rumored for some time that Musk, who currently leads SpaceX and Tesla and also owns Twitter, has been interested in getting his foot in the AI door.

In fact, he’s already been there, having been an early backer of OpenAI, the company behind the viral chatbot ChatGPT. Apparent disagreements over the approach to AI safety led Musk to split from OpenAI in 2018, several years before last year’s launch of the company’s powerful generative AI tool.

Musk’s second serious attempt to enter the sector looks very much like a bid to challenge the dominance of OpenAI, which now has backing from Microsoft to the tune of billions of dollars. However, some will be interested to see how the launch fits with his call in March for a six-month pause in the development of more advanced AI tools so that a set of agreed safety protocols can be agreed upon among industry players.

With a slew of AI companies already developing increasingly sophisticated tools for a range of tasks for both businesses and consumers, Musk looks late to the game. This could be partly down to his preoccupation with Twitter, which has been experiencing a chaotic time since he bought the company in October.

But now Musk will be hoping that by attracting the right team he can have a meaningful impact and challenge the current big hitters in the AI game.

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