Updated March 19th, 2024 at 13:14 IST

Elon Musk’s Grok turns open-source, here’s what it means

An open-source AI model refers to artificial intelligence software whose source code is freely available for anyone to view, use, modify, and distribute.

Reported by: Anirudh Trivedi
Elon Musk's Grok AI | Image:Republic Business

Future of open-source solutions: Elon Musk announced on Monday that his artificial intelligence startup xAI would make its generative AI model Grok, open to the public this week, following his recent lawsuit against OpenAI for deviating from its original non-profit mission in favour of a for-profit approach.

"This week, @xAI will open-source Grok," Musk announced on X.com (formerly known as Twitter). This decision will grant the public unrestricted access to the code underlying X.ai’s GenAI model that Elon Musk compared with OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini (initially known as Bard). X.ai will be joining the trail of companies like Meta and France's Mistral, both of which have made their AI models open-source.


But what does it mean to open-source an AI model, and why are tech giants entangled in a conflict between non-profit, open-source, and for-profit closed-source models? In this report, we will dive deeper to understand what are open-source AI models and why Musk is pushing rigorously for them. 

What are open-source AI models? 

An open-source AI model refers to artificial intelligence software whose source code is freely available for anyone to view, use, modify, and distribute. This accessibility enables collaboration among developers and researchers worldwide, allowing them to improve the model's performance and functionality collectively. 

Open-source AI models promote transparency, allowing users to understand how the system works and verify its accuracy. With open-source AI models, a community of developers and researchers can go through the code, understand how it works, make it better, and highlight any vulnerabilities that exist in the model. 


They also encourage innovation by providing a foundation for building new applications and solutions. It democratises access to advanced technologies and enables niche solutions to expand their horizons and be used in unimaginative ways. 

Why Elon Musk is pushing for open source?

Musk, who has consistently cautioned against the profit-driven use of technology by major companies like Google, filed the lawsuit against OpenAI, earlier this month.  Musk co-founded OpenAI in 2015 but departed from it three years later citing a conflict of interest. 

In response to Musk’s allegations, OpenAI released emails indicating that Musk had supported a plan to establish a for-profit entity and had advocated for a merger with Tesla to enhance profitability, making OpenAI a ‘cash cow’.


However, in many of his interviews including the ones he gave to CNBC and Lex Fridman, Musk advocates for open-sourcing AI models to democratise access to advanced technology that will accelerate innovation and collaboration across industries.  

By making the code freely available, Musk claims that AI development can be accelerated and regulated by public scrutiny instead of the control limiting in the hands of a few. Musk believes that the transparency that open-source AI models will bring will enable us to mitigate the risks associated with proprietary technology. 


Musk claims to make AI models smarter for the collective benefit of humanity rather than solely for profit, thus promoting ethical and responsible AI deployment in society.

Impacts of open-source Grok on industry

The release of open-source Grok by xAI holds many implications for the industry as a whole as it will give small-scale developers access to a world-class AI model, developed by the industry’s leading experts such as Igor Babuschkin, Manuel Kroiss, Yuhuai Wu, Christian Szegedy, and many others. 

This will allow developers worldwide to contribute and improve the AI model and will promote innovation, accelerated AI research, and higher transparency. It will also lower the entry barrier for many AI projects by offering them an already-built structure of a working AI model. Other industry players will also be able to use Grok's capabilities freely. 


Last but not least, it aligns with global ethical AI principles, mitigating risks associated with proprietary, closed-source models. 


Published March 19th, 2024 at 13:02 IST