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Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are reportedly going head-to-head again this time over a buzzy AI startup

Tom Carter   

Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are reportedly going head-to-head again — this time over a buzzy AI startup
  • Meta and xAI are competing to partner with the buzzy startup Character.AI, the Financial Times reports.
  • It's the latest twist in the rivalry between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.

The rivalry between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg may be heating up again.

The Financial Times has reported that Musk's xAI is vying with Meta to partner with Character.AI, an Andreessen Horowitz-backed startup that allows users to create artificial-intelligence characters that act as chatbots.

Individuals with knowledge of the situation told the outlet both companies had held exploratory talks with Character.AI about working together on initiatives, including pre-training and developing AI models, though no deal had been struck with either.

Character.AI was valued at $1 billion last year and is in talks to raise about $200 million from investors such as Google.

The reported race between Meta and xAI to partner with Character.AI marks the latest development in the fierce rivalry between Musk and Zuckerberg.

The two billionaires have been publicly feuding since 2016 when a SpaceX rocket exploded and destroyed a Facebook satellite.

The grudge nearly turned physical in 2023 when Musk challenged Zuckerberg, a jiu-jitsu champion, to a cage match. To date, the fight hasn't happened, but that hasn't stopped Musk from continuing to goad his rival on X.

AI seems to be the latest theater for their rivalry. Meta and xAI, which Musk founded last year, are racing to build up their AI infrastructure and fighting each other for talent.

XAI announced on Sunday that it had raised $6 billion in funding, and reports say Musk is planning to build an enormous supercomputer, which he's calling a "gigafactory of compute," to train the latest version of his sarcastic and foul-mouthed Grok chatbot.

Meta has meanwhile added AI features to its social-media platforms, including Character.AI-style celebrity personas.

Zuckerberg has vowed to spend "aggressively" on AI and said the company's mission is now to build artificial general intelligence, a level of AI that could outperform humans.

The two billionaires have clashed over AI before. In 2017, Zuckerberg branded Musk's views on AI as "irresponsible" after Musk questioned whether AI could be a threat to humanity.

"With AI especially, I'm really optimistic, and I think that people who are naysayers and kind of try to drum up these doomsday scenarios are ... I don't understand it. It's really negative, and in some ways, I actually think it's pretty irresponsible," Zuckerberg said.

Musk fired back that the Meta boss had a "limited" understanding of the subject.

Meta, Musk, and Character.AI didn't immediately respond to a request for comment made outside normal working hours.

Correction: May 28, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated when xAI announced it had raised $6 billion in funding. It was Sunday, not Monday.




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