Emerging Tech

AI With Attitude: Musk Venture Raises Curtain on ChatGPT Competitor ‘Grok’

Grok AI

Elon Musk’s artificial intelligence venture xAI on Saturday announced a generative AI engine called Grok, which could be a potential competitor to leaders in the field, such as ChatGPT, Bard, and Claude.

“Grok is an AI modeled after the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so intended to answer almost anything and, far harder, even suggest what questions to ask!” the xAI team wrote in an online posting.

“Grok is designed to answer questions with a bit of wit and has a rebellious streak, so please don’t use it if you hate humor!” they continued.

“A unique and fundamental advantage of Grok is that it has real-time knowledge of the world via the X [Twitter] platform,” they added. “It will also answer spicy questions that are rejected by most other AI systems.”

The team also invited users to sign up on a waiting list to try Grok during a test period, although only verified X/Twitter users are eligible to participate in the trial.

Value of Rebellious Humor

Neither rebelliousness nor humor is likely to give Grok — a word coined in Robert A. Heinlein’s science fiction novel “Stranger in a Strange Land” — an advantage over established leaders in the domain, argued Greg Sterling, co-founder of Near Media, a news, commentary and analysis website.

“Whether it outperforms ChatGPT or can do useful things that other AIs cannot will determine if it’s competitive,” he told TechNewsWorld.

A “rebellious” or “humorous” design might be an aspect of Grok’s branding and communication strategy, and its impact on competitiveness would largely depend on the preferences of the target market and the specific context, observed Mark N. Vena, president and principal analyst at SmartTech Research, in San Jose, Calif.

“It’s important to consider that the AI industry is diverse and encompasses a wide range of applications and use cases,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Some customers may appreciate a more unconventional or humorous approach, while others may prioritize factors like reliability, performance, and security.”

“Ultimately, the success of Grok will depend on its ability to deliver value and meet the needs of its customers effectively, regardless of its design approach,” Vena said.

The rebellious and humorous bot approach may get some play in some sectors, noted Joe Karasin, a social media marketing specialist with Karasin PPC in Lapeer, Mich. “It may even be a window into how AI can be more accessible or acceptable to consumers,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“While the business community is sold on the use of AI, many consumers are afraid of it, and a more consumer-friendly approach may help businesses make their AI solutions more palatable to their customers,” he said.

Some Spicy Questions

Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, an advisory services firm in Bend, Ore., pointed out the limits of rebellious and humorous chatbots. “People tend to like things that do what they want them to do,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Having an AI that goes off the rails every once in a while is not going to be particularly useful.”

“Making sure that happens in a funny fashion rather than annoying fashion is going to be an interesting dance,” he said.

“Like taste in food or fashion, having a sense of humor varies greatly from one person — or culture — to the next,” added John Gallagher, vice president of Viakoo Labs, a provider of automated IoT cyber hygiene, in Mountain View, Calif.

“In general,” he told TechNewsWorld, “attempting to be humorous, flippant, rebellious, or snarky is likely to trivialize the platform and its value to an organization.”

Answering “spicy questions” is another feature unlikely to lift Grok above its competitors. “Many of Musk’s tech bro acolytes will appreciate it, and it may generate some controversy and media coverage, but it won’t be any sort of competitive advantage or game-changer,” Sterling said.

“Who determines what is too spicy to be presented and to whom?” Gallagher asked. “Will there be age-appropriate guidelines, or will this become a free-for-all all that potentially passes harmful or distorted information to vulnerable people or populations?”

“There are lots of negative ramifications from getting this wrong and very few positive ramifications for getting it right,” he said.

Engaging and Risky Move

Implementing an AI approach that provides “spicy answers” not typically given by traditional chatbots can be both engaging and risky, asserted Vena.

“On the positive side, it can enhance user experience, brand differentiation, and entertainment value,” he said. “However, it may also lead to inappropriate or offensive responses, misunderstandings, and a lack of seriousness in contexts where accuracy and reliability are paramount.”

“Grok’s willingness to answer spicy questions that other AI chatbots won’t answer is a bold decision,” added Joseph Thacker, a security researcher with AppOmni, a SaaS security provider, in San Francisco.

“It could make Grok more interesting and even useful under certain situations, but it may also open up ethical and legal issues,” he continued. “For example, if Grok is asked to provide information on illegal activities or sensitive topics, it could potentially cause harm.”

While the xAI team touted the use of X/Twitter data as a valuable asset in building Grok’s large language model, some experts were skeptical of the value of that data.

“The data on Twitter is badly corrupted, so the accuracy of Grok is going to be all over the map,” Enderle contended.

“There is lots of diverse conversational engagement in the Twitter data, but I question the knowledge and informational depth of the data,” Sterling said. “There’s also plenty of misinformation and propaganda there, too, I’m sure. So overall quality may be an issue.”

Operating System in the Sky

Vena noted that there are both advantages and disadvantages to using X/Twitter data. “Grok will provide real-time insights because Twitter data provides real-time information, making it valuable for staying updated on current trends, news, and public sentiment,” he said.

On the other hand, he noted that Twitter data can be noisy and biased. “There’s also contextual ambiguity risks as Twitter’s character limit can lead to ambiguous or incomplete information, challenging AI’s ability to understand and respond accurately,” he observed.

“Let’s also not forget content quality problems,” he added, “as not all Twitter content is reliable or of high quality, which can impact the trustworthiness of insights derived from it.”

Grok is just part of a larger strategy for Musk, maintains Luke Richey, co-founder and chief visionary officer at Gravity Jack, an augmented reality and computer vision company, in Spokane, Wash.

“What Elon Musk is doing is moving a hundred pieces at once,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Grok is just a piece of a much larger play,” he continued. “Naysayers about his plans are only looking at the single entity, not the whole picture.”

“He uses his current rhetoric to drive attention to what he is doing,” he said. “He is planning for an AI-based OS in the sky. It will run the cars, traffic, and financial systems on blockchain and on X. And that is just phase one.”

John P. Mello Jr.

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News. Email John.

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