Elon Musk Sues OpenAI and Sam Altman for Violating the Company’s Principles

Elon Musk sued OpenAI and its chief executive, Sam Altman, accusing them of breaching a contract by putting profits and commercial interests in developing artificial intelligence ahead of the public good.

Mr. Musk, who helped create OpenAI with Mr. Altman and others in 2015, said the company’s multibillion-dollar partnership with Microsoft represented an abandonment of its founding pledge to carefully develop A.I. and make the technology publicly available.

“OpenAI has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company, Microsoft,” said the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in Superior Court in San Francisco.

The lawsuit is the latest chapter in a fight between the former business partners that has been simmering for years. After Mr. Musk left OpenAI’s board in 2018, the company went on to become a leader in the field of generative A.I. and created ChatGPT, a chatbot that can produce text and respond to queries in humanlike prose. Mr. Musk, who has his own A.I. company, called xAI, said OpenAI was not focused enough on the technology’s risks.

Silicon Valley insiders believe that generative A.I., the technology behind ChatGPT, is a once in a generation technology that could transform the tech industry as thoroughly as web browsers did more than 30 years ago. But others, most notably Mr. Musk, have said that the technology can also be dangerous — perhaps even destroy humanity.

The lawsuit adds to an array of problems piling up for OpenAI. The company’s relationship with Microsoft is also facing scrutiny from regulators in the United States, European Union and Britain. It has been sued by The New York Times, several digital outlets, writers and computer programmers for scraping copyrighted material to train its chatbot. And the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Mr. Altman and OpenAI after the company’s board removed him in November, before reinstating him days later.

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