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It didn’t take long for the world’s most mercurial billionaire to stir the pot following the latest announcements from Apple’s Wordwide Developers Conference, where the company announced the Apple Intelligence suite of services and a partnership with ChatGPT’s creators at OpenAI.

While Tim Cook was quick to emphasise the complete security and privacy of Apple’s take on AI feeding off the data in your phones, tablets or laptops, Elon Musk fired a series of salvos, calling these assurances into this question, suggesting that Apple itself wouldn’t know what was going on with the information that OpenAI’s tools would have access to.

Continuing, he threatened to ban the use of Apple’s devices anywhere within his companies, should the integration happen at the Operating System level:

In his usual style, he didn’t pull any punches in any of a string of posts he unleashed on his own social media platform, drawing attention to potential security threats:

He may have a point here…

It is currently unclear how deep the integration between Apple and OpenAI will be in reality, despite reassurance that no private information but just the prompt itself is sent from the device for execution by ChatGPT.

Certainly, however, Elon throwing a spoke in the wheels is going to draw serious scrutiny to both companies.

It’s not about money but control

Of course, let’s not pretend it doesn’t benefit Musk himself, who was rumoured to have moved thousands of Nvidia GPUs from Tesla to his own AI venture, xAI, as he is looking to build his own stake in the accelerating artificial intelligence industry.

This follows his fervent criticism of OpenAI, which culminated in a lawsuit filed against the company and Sam Altman by Musk in February for violating the company’s original mission as a non-profit building AI tools for the benefit of humanity.

Instead, it is now a full-on for-profit business, which Musk alleges constitutes a breach of contract from when he co-financed the organisation’s founding back in 2015.

The problem isn’t really about OpenAI making money but rather the shift in motivation that it entails. Pursuing profits tends to make companies make risky decisions, not always with the best interest of their users in mind.

That said, while it is a valid security consideration, there seems to be more to Musk’s rants than just worry for millions of unsuspecting consumers.

This is about control over who defines the artificial intelligence standards, and it’s now clear he doesn’t want to be left out.

A serial entrepreneur that he is, with resources that few could match, Elon Musk wants a seat at the table, just like he bought himself one in the social media space by purchasing Twitter.

He understands that AI will soon affect every domain of our existence, and those who dominate it will get to decide how it works — including inside Musk’s own companies, which surely couldn’t do without the latest AI tools.

By lashing out against OpenAI, he’s not only voicing valid concerns but is also using them to position himself as the leader of the voiceless majority against the machinations of Silicon Valley (whether they are exaggerated or not), a man to be trusted by the common folk. Through that, he also buys himself influence and, if successful, a potential audience for competing AI solutions that xAI is developing.

Empty threats?

There’s just one problem with Elon’s threats to boycott Apple’s devices: the only mainstream alternative, Microsoft, is even more deeply intertwined with OpenAI that it poured $10 billion into and is de facto a co-owner of. Microsoft’s own Copilot AI

Therefore, this looks to be more a case of a hyperbolic social media tantrum, which Musk is adept at using, to rally people against the targeted companies to force them to keep their partnership relatively limited, providing him some PR leverage.

I wouldn’t expect Tesla’s or SpaceX’s engineers to swear off both Windows and macOS at work, given that much of the required software can run only on these platforms. And even Elon, the maverick that he is, can’t possibly hope to dislodge this gargantuan duopoly.

What he can attempt to do, however, is make people less trusting of OpenAI and buy himself a seat at the table deciding the future of artificial intelligence.

Featured image: Jean Nelson / depositphotos

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)