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Elon Musk's new AI bot has an attitude - but only for these X subscribers

Available as a beta product via a waitlist for select subscribers of X, the new AI chatbot will offer real-time knowledge and a 'rebellious' sense of humor.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
NurPhoto/Getty Images

Move over, ChatGPT. Watch out, Microsoft Bing. There's a new chatbot in town that wants to get a piece of the AI action. X, aka Twitter, is introducing its own AI chatbot dubbed Grok, which the platform is already touting as superior in certain ways to rival AIs such as ChatGPT.

Also: Would you pay a buck to Tweet? X takes a step toward paywall

Based on details in an announcement from the xAI Team, Grok is designed to answer almost any question and will even suggest questions for you to ask. Grok comes with real-time knowledge of the world based on information from X, which means it will be able to answer questions about contemporary topics. However, the challenge will be to provide accurate data from X without the misinformation that often appears on the platform.

"I can see Grok struggling due to the data source it uses for training - Twitter/X," said Joseph Thacker, a security researcher with SaaS security provider AppOmni. "Twitter/X has an immense amount of data. There's a lot of toxicity, incorrect information, bias and racism, etc. in there. So while it's likely to sound very human, there are risks of that surfacing."

Like ChatGPT and other AIs, Grok is based on a large language model (LLM) trained on millions of web pages and will use algorithms to understand and generate content. Known as Grok-1, the LLM powering Grok has been developed over the past four months during which time it has evolved, especially in its reasoning and coding capabilities, the team explained.

After a mere two months of training, the AI itself is considered to be in the very early beta phase and will rely on its future interactions with X users to help it improve and get smarter.

With AI all the rage, it's only natural for Musk to want to take advantage of this trend. The generative AI arena has been getting more crowded with ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing, Google Bard, Claude AI, and a host of other platforms. But Musk does bring some expertise to the table. Before buying Twitter, he co-founded ChatGPT developer OpenAI in 2015.

Also: ChatGPT-assisted bots are spreading on social media

Modeled on the tongue-in-cheek sci-fi classic "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," Grok is designed with a sense of humor and a rebellious edge, according to the team. The AI will answer questions with some wit and even respond to "spicy" questions that other AI bots won't touch.

To show off Grok's sense of humor, Musk posted two tweets that received sarcastic responses from the chatbot, one asking for the steps on how to make cocaine and another asking about Samuel Bankman-Fried, aka SBF, a former cryptocurrency entrepreneur who was convicted of fraud and is facing a heavy prison sentence.

"Grok's willingness to answer 'spicy questions' that other AI chatbots won't answer is a bold decision," Thacker said. "It could make Grok more interesting and even useful under certain situations, but it may also open up ethical and legal issues. For example, if Grok is asked to provide information on illegal activities or sensitive topics, it could potentially cause harm."

The team acknowledged that Grok can fall into the trap of providing false or contradictory information, just like other LLM-trained AI chatbots. However, the team also outlined a few measures in the works that aim to address these limitations. Such measures include human feedback through AI tutors, helping the AI develop reasoning skills in more verifiable situations, training it to discover more useful information in a specific context, resolving certain vulnerabilities, and adding vision and audio to Grok's senses.

Also: X may train AI with its users' posts. Are other social media sites doing the same?

Why the name Grok? That's Musk's attempt to tap into the sci-fi zeitgeist. Coined by SF author Robert Heinlein in his book "Stranger in a Strange Land," the term has since been defined as a deep understanding or insight into someone or something. As a Star Trek fan, I remember the phrase "I grok Spock" used to describe an affinity or kinship for everyone's favorite Vulcan.

On the downside, Grok is yet another feature introduced by Musk that will be available only for paying X subscribers, and only for those on a Premium+ plan, which starts at a hefty $16 a month or $168 a year. For now, qualifying subscribers who want to take Grok for a spin have to join a waitlist, after which you'll be informed if and when you've been accepted into the early access program. All Premium+ subscribers will then be able to access Grok once it exits the beta stage.

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