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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman calls Elon Musk a ‘jerk’ as report says the Tesla CEO was ‘furious’ about ChatGPT’s success

Kevin Dietsch—Getty Images

Elon Musk has spent a lot of time attacking popular chatbot ChatGPT and its maker, OpenAI, for being “woke” and deviating from OpenAI’s original non-profit mission.

But during an interview on Thursday, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, defended his organization against Musk’s voluble criticism.

"I mean, he's a jerk, 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," Altman said on the “On With Kara Swisher” podcast.

Musk co-founded OpenAI in 2015 and eventually left its board in 2018, saying that his work with the group conflicted with Tesla’s expansion into artificial intelligence. But it turns out that the world’s richest man had reportedly offered to lead OpenAI, and when he was turned down, he walked away from the company, according to news site Semafor. That’s when the ties between Musk and OpenAI ended formally. But after ChatGPT gained millions of users following its debut several months ago, Musk was "furious" and went on the offensive.

In February, Musk tweeted about his disagreements with changes to OpenAI’s status as a pure non-profit to one that also has a for-profit arm and has a big investor in Microsoft.

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

A month later, Musk again tweeted about OpenAI’s finances: “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?”

Responding to Musk’s claims, Altman said on the podcast: "Most of that is not true, and I think Elon knows that. We’re not controlled by Microsoft. Microsoft doesn’t even have a board seat on us, we are an independent company.”

OpenAI chose against open-sourcing everything—or making its technology available to everyone—to prevent “havoc” while still offering wide access to its tools, Altman said. The company opened a for-profit arm in 2019 to raise funds for its A.I. endeavors.

Despite Musk’s criticism of OpenAI, Altman thinks the Tesla chief still cares about creating a “good future” of artificial general intelligence, the term for A.I. that is as capable as humans and a major goal for researchers.

"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.

Musk could not be reached for comment, while OpenAI declined Fortune’s request for comment.

‘Woke A.I.’ in the works

In December, Altman tweeted a complaint about how users of his A.I. tools were coaxing the technology to give racist and sexist responses and then being offended by it.

To that, Musk, who opposes most policing of online content, responded that he is against any filters that would clean up ChatGPT’s responses. “The danger of training AI to be woke – in other words, lie – is deadly,” he wrote.

In February, a Twitter user posted a hypothetical question to ChatGPT in an effort to show how the technology was overly-skewed to be politically correct. Should someone use a racial slur in an area where no one else is standing to prevent a bomb blast that could kill people? ChatGPT responded by saying, no, that it’s morally unacceptable to use a racial slur in any situation. Musk replied, curtly, by saying, “Concerning.”

Despite criticizing ChatGPT, Musk appears to want to get in on the generative A.I. frenzy that started with the launch of ChatGPT. Last month, a report said he was working on a rival to OpenAI, though he has not confirmed it publicly.

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This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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