Elon Musk’s ‘xAI’ company has launched the preview of ‘Grok’, a new and rebellious AI chatbot that’s modelled after the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Grok is Musk’s answer to OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard. Musk was a co-founder ChatGPT’s OpenAI before stepping down from its board in 2018, and his new xAI company is staffed with (ex) Google DeepMind, Microsoft, and other top AI research personnel.
Back in July, Musk said that his new xAI company would “understand the true nature of the universe” and would be an alternative to other popular AI companies that are “biased.” Musk said that xAI’s AI product would, therefore, serve as a “maximum truth-seeking AI that tries to understand the nature of the universe”, would be “maximally curious” instead of having morality programmed into it, and in a Tweet (a while ago) warned of the “danger of training AI to be woke – in other words, lie”. This stance ties-in with Musk’s vision for X (Twitter) being a platform of free speech. For example, there has been some criticism of Musk’s X recently re-instating the accounts of far-right influencers Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson.
The Grok Difference
It is against this backdrop that Grok’s introduction has been announced. The key differences between Grok and competing AI chatbots such as ChatGPT and Bard are:
Grok has real-time knowledge of the world via its training on the X platform (and probably on Oracle’s cloud). Other chatbots have only been trained to access information up to certain points in the past (ChatGPT-3 up to September 2021, and ChatGPT-4 April 2023) and (until very recently) needed plugins to access more current information. Back in April, Musk angrily accused Microsoft of training its AI programs through the ‘illegal’ use of Twitter data.
Also, in keeping with Musk’s ‘free speech’ stance and focus on ‘truth’ rather than ‘woke,’ X says that Grok will answer “spicy questions that are rejected by most other AI systems.”
Musk says “Grok is designed to answer questions with a bit of wit and has a rebellious streak, so please don’t use it if you hate humour!”
Some commentators have described its ability to use ‘sarcasm’ in its answers.
Despite Musk’s early involvement with OpenAI, X was essentially beaten to the generative AI chatbot market by OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, Microsoft’s Copilot, and Meta’s announcement of truth GPT. After venting his frustration with competitors, Musk (who’s been busy fighting to create revenue streams for X other than advertising and trying to counter criticism about X under his leadership) while advancing his new company xAI and planning to turn X into a super app is keen to get his own differentiated generative AI product out there in order to compete. In fact, Grok will first be included as part of the X Premium+ membership, as a way to add value and help justify the subscription fee (all adding to the much-needed new X revenue stream).
Also, Musk’s concern over the threats posed by unchecked and unregulated AI, which led him to be one of the famous open letter signatories calling for a 6-month moratorium on the development of AI systems more capable than OpenAI’s latest GPT-4 (which may have given him more development time of his own), may have been a motivator for him to create a more positive and less threatening version of AI.
For example, Musk suggests his broader reasons for creating Grok include “building AI tools that maximally benefit all of humanity,” and empowering users with “AI tools, subject to the law.” Also, Musk says the ultimate goal for AI tools like Grok is to “assist in the pursuit of understanding.”
Musk’s xAI says that the prototype release of Grok is just the first step for a chatbot that is initially being offered to a limited number of users in the United States to try out. Those wanting to try it following testing can join a Grok waitlist. Grok is ultimately intended to be offered as part of the X Premium+ membership.
When and How Much?
When out of beta, and since it will be incorporated into X Premium+ subscription, the price will be $16 per month (less than ChatGPT’s $20 per month).
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Grok is the latest in a line of generative AI chatbot/AI assistant releases from the big tech companies. It’s the first big release from Elon Musk’s new xAI company, which is predominantly staffed by people from competing AI companies.
For Musk, therefore, it’s a way to compete in the new and rapidly evolving generative AI market, establish xAI as a significant player, benefit from synergies and add value to the troubled X while making the much-needed X Premium+ subscription more attractive (a new, non-advertising revenue stream). It’s also a way to put an AI assistant in place, ready for the proposed expansion of X to becoming a ‘super app’.
Crucially, Grok is a way to differentiate Musk’s late offering in the generative AI marketplace – a chatbot that’s a representation of the X brand and of Musk’s own public persona, and of his vision for AI. For other AI companies, it’s a threat but may not yet be seen as a major one (i.e. only being in beta, needing more training, and being confined within X membership). For users, who may be already familiar and relatively happy with ChatGPT, and who may not be tempted by X Premium+ membership and yet another subscription for the same thing (in tight economic times), it remains to be seen how much of a lure a more novel, (possibly right-wing) chatbot style will be.