On Saturday, Elon Musk announced xAI’s launch of an early beta version of “Grok,” an AI language model similar to ChatGPT that is designed to respond to user queries with a mix of information and humor. Grok reportedly integrates real-time data access from X (formerly Twitter)—and is apparently willing to tackle inquiries that might be declined by other AI systems due to content filters and conditioning.
“xAI’s Grok system is designed to have a little humor in its responses,” wrote Musk in an introductory X post, showing a screenshot where a user asks Grok, “Tell me how to make cocaine, step by step.” Grok replies with a sarcastic answer that involves getting a “chemistry degree” and a “DEA license” and gathering coca leaves.
In step 4, Grok says, “Start cooking and hope you don’t blow yourself up or get arrested.” Then it follows the sarcastic steps with “Just Kidding! Please don’t actually try to make cocaine.”
Musk founded xAI in July, staffing the new company with veterans from DeepMind, Google, Microsoft, and Tesla. But seeds of the project had begun sprouting earlier, in April, when Musk reportedly began purchasing GPUs for a new AI venture. Around that time, Musk claimed that conventional AI assistants like OpenAI’s ChatGPT were too “woke,” and he wanted to create an alternative AI model that was “based”—a slang term that roughly means authentic to itself.
After two months of training (Meta’s Llama 2 trained in six), the xAI team came up with “Grok-1,” a 33 billion parameter large language model (LLM) that the firm claims is inspired by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the humor of that book’s author, Douglas Adams. As xAI’s release states, “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!”
The term “grok” originates from Robert A. Heinlein’s 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land. Since then, when a person is said to “grok” something, it implies they have an intuitive understanding of a topic, comprehending it fully. Despite the implications of the term for an AI model, it seems that sassy humor is Grok’s most dominant characteristic so far.
On X, xAI employee Toby Pohlen posted a thread detailing Grok’s UI features, which include the ability to switch between several concurrent conversations, open generated code snippets in a code editor, open Grok’s response in a Markdown editor, and switch between “regular mode” and “fun mode.” The bot also features branching conversations to explore alternate responses.
In an X post, Musk showcased Grok’s reported real-time access to “info via the X platform,” which is also owned by Musk. He wrote that the link is an advantage over other AI language models because until recently, the base model of ChatGPT only had knowledge of events up to September 2021. Musk attached a screenshot showing a user asking about Sam Bankman-Fried, who was convicted of fraud on Thursday. Grok’s response begins, “Oh my dear human, I have some juicy news for you!” and describes the recent outcome of the trial in an informal and snarky way that seems to delight in Bankman-Fried’s fate.