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PATRICK KARIUKI: As Elon Musk Starts New AI Company, Kenyans File Petition Against AI and Big Tech Firms

PATRICK KARIUKI: As Elon Musk Starts New AI Company, Kenyans File Petition Against AI and Big Tech Firms
SpaceX CEO and Twitter owner Elon Musk

Elon Musk has announced a new company called xAI whose goal is “to understand the true nature of the universe”. This company will be focused on Artificial Intelligence, going by previous statements where Musk has spoken of launching his own rival to ChatGPT, which will be an AI that is a “maximum truth-seeking AI” that “cares about understanding the universe.”

According to xAI’s website, the xAI team is composed of alumni of at DeepMind, Open AI, Google Research, Microsoft Research, Tesla, and the University of Toronto and have worked on and led the development of some of the largest breakthroughs in the field of Artificial Intelligence including AlphaStar, Alpha Code, Inception, Minerva, GPT-3.5, and GPT-4.

This news comes hot on the heels of a petition that has been filed in the National Assembly of Kenya against Open AI and Sama Source, which stand accused of ruining the mental and physical health of the young Kenyans they hired to train the ChatGPT algorithm while ruthlessly underpaying them.

The Kenyan petition has called for an investigation into how Open AI, the creator of ChatGPT, and Sama Source, the contractor that hired the young Kenyans on behalf of Open AI, got away with such exploitation. The petition is also calling for the urgent regulation of tech work.

xAI will be advised by Dan Hendrycks who currently serves as the director of the Centre for AI Safety, which published a letter earlier in 2023 that declared “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

Musk has accused existing AI companies of pioneering systems that are “woke” or “politically correct”. According to him, this makes liars of those systems. He has also previously spoken of the need to protect humanity from the risk of extinction by AI, and presumably, this new company is his contribution to that effort.

However, focusing on the theoretical damage that AI could do to humanity in the future ignores the very real damage that AI algorithms and Big Tech companies are inflicting on marginalized communities right now, as the case of the exploited Kenyan workers shows.

One hopes that Musk’s new company, xAI, will not follow in the unhappy footsteps of Open AI, Meta, and other Big Tech companies that have come to Nairobi to develop their systems while exploiting Kenyans.


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