Twitter Is Investing in AI, Even As Elon Musk Calls for a Pause.

  • Elon Musk-owned Twitter purchased 10,000 GPUs, apparently to get into the generative AI boom.
  • This move goes against Musk’s open-letter plea for companies to slow down AI development.
  • It also backs up Reid Hoffman’s claim that some like Musk wanted the pause so they could catch up.

It looks like LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman was right: some execs want to pause AI development out of their own self-interest

Take Elon Musk as “Exhibit A.” 

Insider reported Tuesday that Twitter, which is owned by Musk, recently purchased 10,000 graphics processing units (GPUs) in an apparent bid to get in on the generative AI boom.

While it’s not clear what Twitter will use the GPUs for, it was reported in February that Musk is looking to create an AI chatbot that will rival OpenAI’s ChatGPT. That would dovetail nicely with Musk’s stated ambitions to build Twitter into an “everything app.” And Twitter has recently attracted researchers away from Google’s famed DeepMind AI lab.

Still, the investment in GPUs seems to run counter to what Musk preached in March, when he signed an open letter asking for a pause on AI development to give society a chance to consider the ramifications of large language models like OpenAI’s GPT-4. 

That letter, which was signed by Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak and over a thousand other industry figures, was met with criticism. Some tech elites, including Bill Gates and Meta CEO Andrew Bosworth, decried the notion of a pause as “unrealistic.” 

Hoffman, for his part, told CNBC last week that the letter was an attempt by some parties involved to get industry leaders like OpenAI to “slow down” so they “can speed up.” As Musk’s one-time business partner, he also said that the Twitter owner’s high-profile participation in the letter was a strategic move.

And Twitter’s purchase of those GPUs would definitely reflect an acceleration in AI investment. For context, those GPUs likely cost Twitter millions of dollars. And in 2020, Microsoft told the world that it built a supercomputer encompassing 10,000 GPUs — the same amount that Twitter just bought — exclusively for OpenAI’s use.

The move comes as Musk has grown critical of OpenAI, attacking its level of transparency and calling it a “ruthless corporate monopoly.” He’s got history with the company: Musk cofounded OpenAI, started as a nonprofit AI research lab, with Sam Altman, Hoffman, and Peter Thiel in 2015. He left the company in 2018, citing a conflict of interest as his flagship company, Tesla got more into AI.

In December, a few months after taking full ownership of Twitter, Musk went so far as to tweet about how he cut OpenAI’s access to Twitter, which was used to train OpenAI’s language models. 

For someone who says he wants to pause AI development, Musk seems to be doing the very opposite of that. It’s looking more like his plea to slow down AI to protect humanity was at least partially a business move intended to make OpenAI take a step back while he took a step forward.

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