your123 -

Elon Musk plans to take xAI chatbot Grok open source

The move comes nearly two weeks after the Tesla owner filed a lawsuit against OpenAI. It also comes as more vendors are providing open source options for enterprise users.

Elon Musk on Monday revealed that his new AI company, xAI, will make Grok, the vendor's generative AI chatbot, open source.

The vendor introduced the AI chatbot in November. It is available in early access to paid premium subscribers to the X social media platform owned by Musk, which touts it as an AI chatbot with "a bit of wit" and "a rebellious streak."

It is powered by Grok-1, a large language model (LLM) that is comparable in size to Meta's Llama 2 70B-parameter model and OpenAI's GPT-3.5, according to xAI.

Musk's plans to make the AI chatbot open source come nearly two weeks after he filed a lawsuit accusing OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and president Greg Brockman of a breach of the original contract under which the AI research firm and vendor was created. A key element of the suit is Musk's contention that OpenAI technology was supposed to be open and for the good of humanity but that Altman steered the company in a closed direction.

Musk, an original co-founder of OpenAI, stepped back fully from the company in 2019.

It also comes as open source gains popularity in the generative AI market.

For example, most recently Microsoft invested in Mistral AI, a French vendor with open source models.

Also, Google recently introduced its open source model, Gemma, and Meta's Llama family of free open source LLMs has proven popular in the market and competes with the large, powerful closed LLMs from OpenAI and Google.

More information needed

While Musk's move was welcomed by open source enthusiasts, it's not clear yet what part of Grok will be open source.

"That's the first question: What parts of this whole thing are they going to open source," said Chirag Shah, professor at the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle.

It's unclear if xAI plans to make the code used to fine-tune the model open source, or the model itself, he said.

"They could have some of these open, but not others," he added.

Openness as a strategy

Musk's decision to go open source with Grok also shows how large vendors try to use openness to get ahead of one another in the generative AI race, said David Gray Widder, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University. He recently published research examining the ethical, political and economic aspects of OpenAI.

Openness is being used as a rhetorical wand in a debate between different large AI companies.
David Gray WidderPostdoctoral fellow, Cornell University

"Openness is being used as a rhetorical wand in a debate between different large AI companies," Widder said.

In the case of xAI, Musk's motivation for making Grok open source now could be part of his grudge against OpenAI, Shah said.

Musk has argued repeatedly that OpenAI should make its technology open source. So, this move with Grok could be seen as him doing what his competitor chooses not to do.

"Openness has been instrumentalized by these tech companies to argue for or to argue in favor of their sort of preferred position," Widder said.

Openness is also an advertising mechanism, he added.

For example, Meta has shown how making Llama 2 open source has helped external developers build technology compatible with Meta's internal systems.

In xAI's case, it ought help it gain more traction in the generative AI market, Shah said.

"Musk is not out there to do this as a charity thing," he said. "He wants to make money."

"It wouldn't be surprising to see that this is not just about the LLM, but that he wants to get that attention, attraction to more AI products that are coming," Shah continued.

While Grok might be open source, other products xAI releases might not be, he added.

Esther Ajao is a TechTarget Editorial news writer and podcast host covering artificial intelligence software and systems.

Screenshot of Musk's announcement
Elon Musk reveals plans to open source Grok, a generative AI chatbot by xAI.

Dig Deeper on AI business strategies

Business Analytics
Data Management