Satya Nadella disputes Elon Musk’s claim that Microsoft controls OpenAI

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on OpenAI relationship, generative A.I., Microsoft-Activision deal

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said it is “factually not correct” to claim that Microsoft controls its partner OpenAI, in an excerpt of a pre-taped interview with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin airing Tuesday.

Nadella’s remarks came after Elon Musk — the CEO of Tesla, Twitter and SpaceX, who also co-founded OpenAI — had claimed in an interview with Tucker Carlson in April that “Microsoft has a very strong say, if not directly controls, OpenAI at this point.” Musk has been a vocal critic of recent advancements in artificial intelligence, and he was one of more than 27,000 people to sign an open letter in March that called on AI labs to pause development.

“Look, while I have a lot of respect for Elon and all that he does, I’d just say that’s factually not correct,” Nadella said. “OpenAI is very grounded in their mission of being controlled by a nonprofit board. We have a noncontrolling interest in it, we have a great commercial partnership in it.”

ChatGPT-maker OpenAI was founded in 2015 as a nonprofit. The structure changed in 2019, when two top executives published a blog post announcing the formation of a “capped-profit” entity called OpenAI LP. The current setup restricts the startup’s first investors from making more than 100 times their money, with lower returns for later investors, such as Microsoft.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks during the company’s annual shareholders meeting, Nov. 28, 2018, in Bellevue, Washington.

Stephen Brashear | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Microsoft announced a multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment into OpenAI in January, which marked the third phase of the partnership between the two companies. Microsoft has been integrating OpenAI’s technology, such as GPT-4, across its products and services in recent months.

Nadella said AI development is happening quickly but that it is important for Microsoft to capitalize on the technology and its promise.

“If anything, I feel, yes, it’s moving fast, but moving fast in the right direction,” he said. “Humans are in the loop versus being out of the loop. It’s a design choice, which, at least, we have made.”

Nadella’s full interview with Sorkin will be streamed Tuesday on NBC News Now and Peacock at 10:30 p.m. ET.

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