Elon Musk launched an artificial intelligence company called xAI, but beyond that revealed almost nothing about what the company will actually do.
Musk, one of the world’s wealthiest people, tweeted on Wednesday (July 12) that he started the company to “understand reality.” The company’s bare-bones website doesn’t go any further into detail, writing that its goal is to “understand the true nature of the universe.”
But Musk did reveal the people who are working on xAI—and they’re all men.
The website for xAI lists a team of 12 men, including Musk, with links to their Twitter accounts. The site brags about their storied accomplishments and full résumés:
Our team is led by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. We have previously worked at DeepMind, OpenAI, Google Research, Microsoft Research, Tesla, and the University of Toronto. Collectively we contributed some of the most widely used methods in the field, in particular the Adam optimizer, Batch Normalization, Layer Normalization, and the discovery of adversarial examples. We further introduced innovative techniques and analyses such as Transformer-XL, Autoformalization, the Memorizing Transformer, Batch Size Scaling, and μTransfer. We have worked on and led the development of some of the largest breakthroughs in the field including AlphaStar, AlphaCode, Inception, Minerva, GPT-3.5, and GPT-4.
If there’s any diversity in their backgrounds, that’s about it. Each one appears to be a white or Asian man. The company also lists an advisor—Dan Hendrycks, the director of the Center for AI Safety—who is also a white man.
While the latest hype cycle of AI might be new, spurred by the development of OpenAI’s GPT large language models and its chatbot ChatGPT, AI’s diversity problem is nothing new.
Sexism and racism can be hard-coded into systems: AI-based software has disproportionately flagged Black people as likely to commit future crimes, discriminated against nonwhite and nonmale job applicants, and struggled to identify darker skin tones. Of course, smart assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have been given female personas, which tech ethicists have criticized for reinforcing gender bias.
In assembling his team, it seems that Musk has made no effort to address AI’s diversity problem. The company listed a sign-up form for interested job applicants, but whether it’s using AI software to hire candidates or not, seasoned bettors should put their money on the company’s staff composition staying painfully homogenous.