Elon Musk privately pondered whether it was worth spending so much time focused on Twitter amid the threat of AI: 'It's not like I need to be richer or something'
- Walter Isaacson said Elon Musk considered spending less time at Twitter to focus on AI and SpaceX.
- The biographer said Musk was concerned about the developments in AI destroying human civilization.
Elon Musk considered spending less time trying to make Twitter profitable in favor of focusing on AI concerns and colonizing Mars, according to an excerpt published in TIME from Walter Isaacson's forthcoming biography on the billionaire.
The author, who has been shadowing Musk for about three years, said the Tesla CEO weighed the value of focusing his energy on Twitter while OpenAI's ChatGPT grew in popularity — adding to his concerns about AI.
"With AI coming, I'm sort of wondering whether it's worth spending that much time thinking about Twitter," Isaacson said Musk told him in March at a meeting between the biographer, Musk, and a Neuralink director who gave birth to two of his children.
"Sure, I could probably make it the biggest financial institution in the world. But I have only so many brain cycles and hours in the day. I mean, it's not like I need to be richer or something," Musk reportedly told Isaacson, referring to his plans to turn Twitter — now known as X — into a WeChat-like app with a host of features.
Musk is the richest person in the world with a net worth of about $231 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His Tesla compensation package alone has been valued at $55 billion. What's more, the billionaire has said in the past that he wants to dedicate his wealth to his mission of colonizing Mars through his work at SpaceX.
But over the years, Musk's attention has been split between several companies with the Tesla CEO saying he sometimes works 120-hour weeks.
After he acquired Twitter in October, Musk was known to sleep at the company's headquarters. At the time, some Tesla investors had even expressed concern about Musk's preoccupation with the social media company, calling it a "distraction" and saying the Tesla CEO was "overcommitted." While Musk eventually stepped down as Twitter CEO when ex-NBCUniversal ad boss Linda Yaccarino took over in June, he is still very involved in the day-to-day decisions at X, Insider's Kali Hays previously reported.
At the March meeting, Isaacson said the billionaire told him he felt the developments in AI made his mission to colonize Mars even more pressing — pondering "the window of opportunity for building a sustainable human colony on Mars before an AI apocalypse destroyed earthly civilization. "
"He spoke in a low monotone punctuated by bouts of almost manic laughter," Isaacson wrote. "The amount of human intelligence, he noted, was leveling off, because people were not having enough children. Meanwhile, the amount of computer intelligence was going up exponentially, like Moore's Law on steroids. At some point, biological brainpower would be dwarfed by digital brainpower."
Musk has expressed similar concerns in the past. Earlier this year, Musk warned AI is a "danger to the public," signed an open letter calling for a pause on the development of AI (while quietly developing his own generative AI efforts, Insider's Kali Hays first reported), and has worked to to make Twitter data less accessible for training AI models.
Isaacson said Musk first discussed his plans to build an AI company at the March meeting. The billionaire later unveiled plans for the company called x.AI in July, saying its goal is to "understand the true nature of the universe." The biographer said Musk told him he plans to run the company himself.
It is one of six companies, including Tesla, SpaceX, and X, that Musk is helping to lead.
Musk and a spokesperson for X did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication.
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