Musk justifies a Google scientist hunting down ‘traitor’ Larry Page

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Elon Musk justifies the hunt for Google scientist ‘traitor’ Larry Page, saying he shouldn’t be ‘so cavalier about AI security’.
Chesnot and Kimberly White via Getty Images

  • A newly released biography on Musk details how he backed then-CEO Larry Page to poach a Google scientist.
  • Larry told his biographer that he felt ‘betrayed’ and was mad at Musk.
  • “And I was like, ‘Larry, if you weren’t so cavalier about AI security, there wouldn’t necessarily be some countervailing force,'” Musk said.

In 2015, Elon Musk and Sam Altman convinced a Google scientist to jump ship — with a $1.9 million salary and starting bonus — and join the OpenAI co-founder.

Walter Isaacson’s biography of Musk, written after shadowing the tech billionaire for three years and published Tuesday, details the aftermath of the incident and how Musk advocated for talent poaching from Google to the company’s then-CEO Larry Page.

At the heart of their conflict was Musk and Page’s disagreement over the future of AI, which resulted in Musk’s 2014 attempt and failure to block Google’s acquisition of AI company DeepMind.

A year later, when Musk and Altman were looking to start their own competing AI lab, OpenAI, they tapped Google scientist Ilya Sutskever to be the new company’s cofounder and chief scientist. Sutskever joined Google’s AI unit, Google Brain, in 2013 with Geoffrey Hinton — also known as the “Godfather of AI.”

“Larry felt betrayed and was really mad at me for personally recruiting Ilya and refused to hang out with me anymore,” Musk told Isaacson of the rising tension between him and Page.

“And I was like, ‘Larry, if you weren’t so cavalier about AI security, there wouldn’t necessarily be some countervailing force,'” Musk added.

In the early stages of OpenAI, Musk and Altman agreed that having a large number of competing AI systems was better for AI security — AI’s threat to humanity has long been a concern of Musk’s — and encouraged the company’s source code to be openly shared. Character.

However, by 2018, Musk had left OpenAI’s board. In an interview in April this year, Musk criticized the company for being “obviously for-profit” and “closed-source” – referring to the company’s shift from its non-profit roots.

For his part, Sutskever supported OpenAI’s opaque and closed-source GPT-4 in a March 2023 interview with The Verge, saying the company’s past approach to openly sharing research was wrong.

Sutskever now co-leads a team at OpenAI focused on addressing the threat of “super-intelligent” AI being rogue and endangering humanity.

For context, the competition for AI talent has intensified over the past year. Even non-AI companies are offering up to $300,000 for candidates with AI skills.

When Musk launched his own AI startup — xAI — in July, he again enlisted the help of AI experts at Google and OpenAI. Seven of the 12 employees who make up the new company had previously welcomed the two tech giants.

Musk and Page did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment sent outside regular business hours. SutScaver did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent by OpenAI outside regular business hours.

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