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Elon Musk poached a Google scientist and justified it by saying Larry Page shouldn’t have been so cavalier about AI safety

Google AI safety

Elon Musk and Sam Altman convinced a Google scientist to join them in cofounding Open AI by offering him a $1.9 million salary and bonus.

In his biography of Musk, Walter Isaacson describes how Musk justified poaching talent from Google to its then-CEO Larry Page after shadowing the tech billionaire for three years.

In 2014, Musk attempted and failed to thwart Google’s acquisition of AI company DeepMind due to a disagreement between Musk and Page over AI’s future.

When Musk and Altman started their own competing AI lab, OpenAI, a year later, Ilya Sutskever was hired as a cofounder and chief scientist. Along with Geoffrey Hinton, a man known as the “godfather of AI,” Sutskever joined Google’s artificial intelligence unit, Google Brain, in 2013.

As a result of this escalation of tension between Musk and Page, Musk told Isaacson, “Larry felt betrayed and really mad at me for personally recruiting Ilya.”

‘Larry, if you hadn’t been so cavalier about google AI safety then it wouldn’t have been necessary to have some countervailing force,” Musk said.

As the biography explains, Musk and Altman agreed early on that a large number of competing AI systems would lead to better AI safety – AI’s threat to humanity has long been a concern of Musk’s – and encouraged openly sharing OpenAI’s source code.

Musk left the board of OpenAI in 2018, criticizing the company for being “obviously for-profit” and “closed-source” – referring to its shift from being a non-profit.

In a March 2023 interview with the Verge, Sutskever defended OpenAI’s opaque and closed-source GPT-4 process, stating that the company’s past approach to openly sharing research was flawed.

At OpenAI, Sutskever co-leads a team that addresses the threat of “superintelligent” AI going rogue.

Even non-AI firms are offering up to $300,000 for candidates with AI skills in the past year.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk started his own AI company – xAI – in July, poaching seven of its 12 employees from Google and OpenAI.

Musk and Page did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment outside regular business hours. Sutskever did not immediately respond to a request for comment via OpenAI outside regular business hours.

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