More than a month after hiring a couple of former DeepMind researchers, Twitter is reportedly moving forward with an in-house artificial intelligence project. According to Business Insider, Elon Musk recently bought 10,000 GPUs for use at one of the company’s two remaining data centers. A source told the outlet the purchase shows Musk is “committed” to the effort, particularly given the fact there would be little reason for Twitter to spend so much money on datacenter-grade GPUs if it didn’t plan to use them for AI work.
The project reportedly involves the creation of a generative AI that the company would train on its own massive trove of data. It’s unclear how Twitter would utilize the technology. Insider suggests a generative AI could augment the platform’s search functionality or assist the company in rebuilding its advertising business. In any case, the report colors Musk’s recent decision to sign an open letter calling for a six-month pause on AI development.
Musk has been a vocal critic of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence research organization he co-founded in 2015. “I’m still confused as to how a non-profit to which I donated ~$100M somehow became a $30B market cap for-profit. If this is legal, why doesn’t everyone do it?” Musk said in one of his recent Twitter missives against the lab’s for-profit subsidiary, OpenAI Limited Partnership.
However, a recent report from Semafor suggests his feud with OpenAI is more personal. In 2018, Musk reportedly told Sam Altman, one his fellow co-founders at OpenAI, the lab was falling too far behind Google. Musk then suggested that he should be the one to run the firm, a proposal Altman and OpenAI’s other founders rejected.
The power struggle led to Musk’s departure from OpenAI, though publicly both parties maintain Musk left due to a conflict of interest involving Tesla. At the time, OpenAI said the billionaire would continue to fund its research. However, according to Semafor, Musk’s payments stopped after his departure – despite a promise to provide the firm with roughly $1 billion. The sudden shortfall left OpenAI scrambling to raise cash. In 2019, the organization announced it was creating a for-profit subsidiary to secure the capital it needed to fund its work. That same year, the firm announced a $1 billion investment from Microsoft. When OpenAI opened ChatGPT to the public in November and the chatbot began to dominate headlines, Musk was reportedly “furious.” One month later, he cut OpenAI’s access to Twitter’s “firehose” of data. And now it would appear he wants to compete against his old organization head-on.