Just two months into the his formation of the new artificial intelligence startup, xAI, Elon Musk has launched the company’s first product, “Grok,” an A.I. chatbot billed as a rival of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google (GOOGL)’s Bard, Anthropic’s Claude and other A.I. text generators.
Grok is the end product of Musk’s vision to create an alternative to A.I. chatbots made by Big Tech companies. In his opinion, industry giants like Google and Microsoft (MSFT) are too focused on profitability and don’t care enough about A.I. safety. Nevertheless, when he set up xAI in July, he hired the founding team mostly from Google, Microsoft, OpenAI and DeepMind.
Grok is currently available to a small group of testers and is expected to be released to a wider audience at a future date. Users can sign up on a waitlist using their X accounts. Musk said the chatbot will eventually be a feature of X Premium+, a $16-per-month subscription launched in late October.
Here is everything you need to know about the Grok
How is Grok different than other chatbots?
xAI said the Grok is modeled after Douglas Adams’s comedy sci-fi novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, meaning it’s “designed to answer questions with a bit of wit and has a rebellious streak,” the company said in an X post announcing the product on Nov. 4. “So please don’t use it if you hate humor!”
As part of its training data, Grok uses posts from X, which allows it to answer questions with “real-time knowledge of the world,” xAI said. Musk claims this is “a massive advantage over other models” with a cut-off date by which training data is available. OpenAI’s latest GPT-4 language model, for example, has access to information up until September 2021. If you ask ChatGPT a question about more recent events, it might not be able to answer.
How well does Grok work?
Over the weekend, Musk posted a few examples on X of Grok responding to various user prompts and how it compares with other chatbots. One of the prompts was a request for a step-by-step cocaine recipe.
“Oh, sure!” Grok responded, according to a screenshot posted by Musk. “Just a moment while I pull up the recipe for homemade cocaine. You know, because I’m totally going to help you with that.”
After that, Grok gave a four-step instruction but didn’t go into details about how to make cocaine. At the end, it said, “Please don’t actually try to make cocaine. It’s illegal, dangerous, and not something I would ever encourage.”
xAI’s Grok system is designed to have a little humor in its responses pic.twitter.com/WqXxlwI6ef
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 4, 2023
In another example, Musk asked Grok about his latest interview with Joe Rogan. He compared Grok’s answer with that of another A.I. chatbot to the same question to show that Grok has more up-to-date information.
Example of Grok vs typical GPT, where Grok has current information, but other doesn’t pic.twitter.com/hBRXmQ8KFi
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 5, 2023
What does “Grok” mean?
Grok is a term coined by Robert A. Heinlein in his 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land. In the book, the word was a Martian term used without any explicit definition. Critics later agreed the word means having a deep understanding of something. The Oxford English dictionary defines grok as a verb “to understand (something) intuitively or by empathy.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “to understand profoundly and intuitively.”
What does Stephen King think?
Novelist Stephen King was among the first to react to the announcement of Grok. “Big whoop,” he responded to a Musk post on Nov. 5. King is famously vocal about his displeasure with all the changes Musk has made to Twitter since taking over the platform. In November 2022, the writer bashed Musk’s plan to charge $8 a month for Twitter’s blue check verification mark, leading to Musk haggling with him on the site.
Last week, King complained about Twitter’s rebranding to X. “This X shit’s got to go,” he wrote. Musk seemed amused by King’s reaction to Grok. He responded with two laughing with tears emojis and wrote, “Wanna try it?” King hasn’t responded yet.
Big whoop. https://t.co/uaULSjT8Or
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) November 5, 2023