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Elon will pay Tesla engineers more as AI war hottens


Published: 20:43, 4 April 2024

Elon will pay Tesla engineers more as AI war hottens

Photo : Collected

Elon Musk, the billionaire technology entrepreneur and boss of electric carmaker Tesla, says he will pay his artificial intelligence engineers more to prevent them from being poached by rival companies.

"The talent war for AI is the craziest talent war I’ve ever seen!" Musk said in a post on X. "Tesla is increasing comp (contingent on progress milestones) of our AI engineering team."

Musk's announcement came as he lamented losing valuable talent to OpenAI — a groundbreaking startup he helped found but with whose pioneers he has since fallen out with.

OpenAI is "aggressively recruiting Tesla engineers with massive compensation offers," the 52-year-old billionaire ranted on X.

A user of the platform then took the opportunity to ask: "Is Tesla matching these compensation offers? Or is it more [that it is unhappy] these employees just want to switch things up, so matching compensation wouldn’t matter?" That's when Musk responded that he will fight back with higher remuneration.

The billionaire weighed in on the war over technology talent after reports that Ethan Knight, a prominent engineer at Tesla, had decided to join xAI, another Musk company, after being approached by OpenAI.

"Ethan was going to join OpenAI, so it was either xAI or them," Musk wrote. "They have been aggressively recruiting Tesla engineers with massive compensation offers and have unfortunately been successful in a few cases."

But the trademark condescension with which Musk treated his employees also surfaced when he played down Knight's value to Tesla, after the engineer was described as a "vision chief" at the carmaker.

"Ethan is very talented, but 'vision chief' would be overstating things," Musk wrote. "There are over 200 excellent engineers in the Tesla AI/Autonomy team. Tesla’s pace of progress with autonomy is accelerating."

According to an industry report from 2023, OpenAI provides the highest salaries for new PhD-holding graduates at $865,000 per annum. Tesla came in at fourth on the list with $780,000.

Musk and OpenAI boss Sam Altman were once partners and pals. They split in 2008 when Altman refused to back Musk to head the company to take on Google. Since then, tensions have been growing between them, especially after OpenAI began dominating industry attention with its powerful GPT chatbot and started an alliance with Microsoft.

Earlier this year, Musk announced his intentions to sue OpenAI and Altman for violation of commitments made when they formed the company together. OpenAI responded with claims that some of Musk's allegations were "incoherent". The countersuit also expressed concerns that a so-called discovery phase cited by Musk in his court filing could be exploited to access proprietary information on OpenAI.

OpenAI released its GPT-4 language model in March 2023, but Musk claimed "GPT-4’s internal design was kept and remains a complete secret except to OpenAI—and, on information and belief, Microsoft."

Musk then decided to open-source — or make available for free use — xAI’s chatbot Grok in response to decisions by OpenAI he disagreed with.