Sam Altman, CEO of ChatGPT creator OpenAI, has addressed criticisms made by Elon Musk, saying that while the Twitter CEO acts like a "jerk" on the platform, he empathizes with him, particularly when it comes to his concern about artificial general intelligence (AGI) safety.

"Elon is obviously attacking us on Twitter right now on a few different vectors, and I have empathy because I believe he is, understandably so, really stressed about AGI safety. I'm sure there are some other motivations going on too, but that's definitely one of them," Altman said in the latest installment of the "On with Kara Swisher" podcast.

Elon Musk Tried to Head OpenAI in 2018

Musk co-founded OpenAI, which was originally a nonprofit, in 2015. However, he eventually resigned from its board in 2018, citing conflicts between his work with the group and Tesla's foray into artificial intelligence. Musk reportedly attempted to lead OpenAI but was denied the opportunity.

According to Semafor, Musk told Altman in early 2018 that the venture had widely lagged behind Google. Subsequently, Musk proposed to take control of OpenAI and personally manage it, but Altman and the other founders rejected his proposal. Musk left the company and canceled his planned contribution afterward.

Elon Musk making Twitter more open to hateful, harmful or dishonest tweets could be ramping up financial pressure on the tech firm the Tesla chief bought late last year in a $44 billion deal

OpenAI announced on March 11, 2019, that it had established a for-profit entity to acquire adequate funding to cover the cost of computing power for its AI models.

Musk, who previously donated $100 million to the company while it was still a non-profit, expressed his skepticism on Twitter regarding OpenAI's transition to a for-profit organization. He also raised concerns about OpenAI's link to Microsoft, asserting that the tech giant had exclusive access to its entire codebase including model weights.

Altman Calls Musk a 'Jerk' with Good Intentions

Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI last year. Collaboratively, they developed a highly advanced computer system to facilitate the training of extensive models, which ultimately resulted in the creation of ChatGPT alongside the image generator DALL-E. The newest language model, GPT-4, includes an impressive one trillion parameters.

Since ChatGPT's debut in November 2022, OpenAI has emerged as a highly sought-after tech startup, prompting Google to pursue a rapid response in order to stay competitive. Insiders said Musk was furious with the situation, according to Semafor.

"OpenAI was created as an open source (which is why I named it 'Open' AI), a non-profit company to serve as a counterweight to Google, but now it has become a closed source, the maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft. Not what I intended at all," he wrote on Twitter on Feb. 17.

"I'm still confused as to how a non-profit to which I donated ~$100M somehow became a $30B market cap for-profit. If this is legal, why doesn't everyone do it?" he said on March 15.

Altman then refuted the claims made by Musk, noting that OpenAI operates as an independent entity, separately from Microsoft.

"Most of that is not true, and I think Elon knows that," Altman said on Swisher's podcast.

But he revealed that they actually had a conversation, adding that Musk's criticism stemmed from genuine worry.

"I mean, he's a jerk on Twitter, whatever else you want to say about him, he has a style that is not a style that I'd want to have for myself, but I think he does really care, and he is feeling very stressed about what the future's going to look like for humanity," Altman told Swisher.

Despite being presented with challenges such as divided attention due to his involvement in Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter, Musk's goal of launching his own AI startup remains steadfast. It should be noted, however, that he faces competition from existing players on the field, putting him at a disadvantage.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speaks at the Microsoft announcement on February 7, 2023