Elon Musk on Friday said the purpose of his new artificial intelligence company, xAI, will be to “understand the universe.” In an often meandering 90-minute-long Twitter Spaces audio chat, the billionaire discussed his vision for xAI for the first time while veering into topics such as the Earth’s evolution and the fragility of civilization.
While most of xAI’s staff is unknown, it will include researchers with experience at companies like OpenAI and Google. A few of them penned the critical Transformer technique that enabled ChatGPT, a conversational AI engine that Musk launched in April and claimed to be a competitor to Microsoft’s Bing, Google’s Bard AI, and others.
The most notable xAI team member named thus far is Igor Babuschkin, a particle physicist with past work at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and a former physics professor. He and the rest of the xAI team, including former Microsoft researcher Greg Yang, Tony Wu, Zihang Dai, and Toby Pohlen, have ambitions to tackle big existential scientific questions that have so far eluded humanity’s best minds.
One of those challenges is to resolve the infamous Fermi paradox, which asks why humanity has yet to encounter extraterrestrial life in a universe that astrophysicists estimate contains more than 13 billion years’ worth of physics-friendly conditions for life. Another is the thorny question of dark matter and energy, which are believed to make up 95 percent of the universe but remain mysteriously unobservable.
Toward that end, Musk promised xAI would work closely with Twitter and Tesla. The company will train its AI models using public tweets, and it may collaborate with Tesla on AI software that could help accelerate the automaker’s self-driving capabilities. He said that xAI will also share its work with the broader community to promote a responsible approach to developing advanced AI.
Aside from the grand existential goals, Musk stressed that he wanted xAI to be a competitor on the scale of Microsoft and Google’s AI efforts. He also called for greater regulation of the technology. He revealed that he had pressed to arrange meetings with White House officials and underscored the importance of regulation during discussions with top Chinese government officials. He also said he was hopeful that the US and China could agree on an international framework for AI, but he declined to provide further details.
The SpaceX and Tesla CEO also reiterated his call to ban autonomous weapons. The session was held in a private room in the firm’s San Francisco headquarters and was broadcast live on Twitter. It was the second of several sessions over the next few weeks. The next is scheduled for July 30. All of them will be streamed on Twitter’s Periscope platform. The company has also established a physical space in the heart of Silicon Valley that’s open for public tours. It will be the venue for future xAI presentations. Its address is here.