Why Elon Musk wants to suspend GPT-4.

Why Elon Musk wants to suspend GPT-4.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is calling for a pause on the training of artificial intelligence systems more powerful than GPT-4 for six months. He is taking a circumspect view of the new and improving technology.

Wait what? We were under the impression that Musk was a big supporter of AI. His car company, Tesla (ticker: TSLA), wants to be an AI company with smartcars driving themselves, along with their owners or customers, wherever they want to go. What’s more, Tesla had 120 people in software AI as of July 2022. And Tesla has hosted two artificial intelligence days to teach investors about the company’s AI efforts as well as recruit top AI scientists to work for the EV maker.

In fact, Musk talks about AI with investors all the time. The term “AI” came up at Tesla’s March 1 investor event about 20 times, including when Ashok Elluswamy, Tesla’s director of Autopilot software explained Tesla’s approach to developing self-driving cars: “Building…scalable self-driving systems, I think, [is] one of the hardest real-world AI problems out there right now…At Tesla we are betting on AI, machine learning neural networks to help us build a general vision and planning system.”

Musk, though, isn’t an AI fanboy—and he’s always had his reservations. “Full [driving] autonomy is really a software limitation. The hardware exists to create full autonomy. It’s really about developing advanced narrow AI for the car to operate on,” said Musk on Tesla’s 2016 second-quarter earnings conference call in August of that year before adding, “I want to emphasize narrow AI is like not going to take over the world. But it needs to be really good at driving a car.”

Musk also spoke about AI at the same event as Elluswamy. “So I don’t know. Like Tesla is doing good things in AI. I don’t know. This one stresses me out, so I don’t know what to say about it, you know?”

The seeds of the letter he signed seem to have been germinating at Tesla’s investor day. “I think we should need some kind of like regulatory authority or something that’s overseeing AI development and just making sure that it’s operating within the public interest,” added Musk.

Oversight is one of the things the open letter from the Future of Life Institute suggests, along with a pause on the development of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.

Whether or not that impacts Tesla self-driving efforts isn’t clear. Tesla and Musk didn’t respond to requests for comment.

It could be a prudent move given how AI is developing. It could also be a shrewd move by Musk for the betterment of his car company. The letter is “strategically a move from the tech industry to slow down Microsoft

Alphabet (GOOGL) and Microsoft (MSFT) didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Tesla is selling its highest-level driver assistance software, called Full Self Driving, for $15,000. That system isn’t good enough to drive cars by itself just yet. Drivers still need to supervise the product 100% of the time.

Still, Tesla’s most bullish investors, including ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood, believe that self-driving software will unlock hundreds of billions, if not trillions, in stock market value. Wood projects that Tesla will be generating about $280 billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, or Ebitda, annually by 2026 and that more than half of that will come from a self-driving robotaxi business. Tesla generated $19.2 billion in Ebitda in 2022.

Wood’s name doesn’t appear to be on the list of signees, who are made up primarily of academics, founders of companies who cashed out long ago, or heads of companies that don’t have a horse in the AI race. Apple (AAPL) co-founder Steve Wozniak signed. So did

Anything that impacts the potential for self-driving cars can impact the value of Tesla, but investors weren’t thinking about that on Wednesday. Tesla shares gained 2.5%, closing at $193.88. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite added 1.4% and 1.8%, respectively.

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