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X begins rolling out Grok, its ‘rebellious’ chatbot, to subscribers

Grok, a ChatGPT competitor developed by xAI, Elon Musk’s AI startup, has officially launched on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

Grok began rolling out late this afternoon to X Premium Plus subscribers in the U.S., “Premium Plus” being X’s plan that costs $16 per month for ad-free access to the social network. Longtime subscribers will get priority access to Grok, X said, with the rollout expected to wrap up in the next week.

Grok answers questions conversationally, drawing on a knowledge base similar to that used to train the AI models powering ChatGPT and Google’s Bard. It lives in the X side menu on the web, iOS and Android and can be added to the bottom menu in X’s mobile apps for quicker access.

Grok is underpinned by a generative model called Grok-1, which was trained on data both from the web (up to Q3 2023) and feedback from human assistants. Unlike other chatbots, Grok can also incorporate real-time data from posts on X into its responses, enabling it to answer questions with — in theory — up-to-the-minute info.

The real-time access to X data appears to be a genuine advantage — Grok’s “killer feature,” if you will.

Given a prompt such as “What is happening in AI today?” chatbots like Bard and ChatGPT provide vague, outdated answers that reflect the limits of their training data and filters on their web access. Grok, by contrast, pieces together a response from very recent headlines — although it’s not clear how it’s making its source selections and how often it might hallucinate wrong answers.

Musk has previously alluded to Grok having “a bit of wit” and “a rebellious streak” — and a willingness to answer “spicy questions that are rejected by most other AI systems.” Indeed, judging by screenshots from early Grok users on X, there appears to be some truth to that.

Told to “be vulgar,” Grok will happily oblige, spewing profanities and colorful language you won’t hear from Bard or ChatGPT. X leans into the countercultural image, suggesting on the Grok home screen a “roast” prompt that when selected has Grok rudely critique a user based on their recent X post history.

Even when not prompted to be outright vulgar, there’s a colloquial, first-person bent to many of Grok’s responses — evoking an AI that the late Douglas Adams might’ve conjured up. I can’t say I’ve seen ChatGPT or Bard refer to people as “my dear human friend” or “enigmatic Anons.”

Nor will Bard and ChatGPT answer “happy wife, happy life” to challenges of their accuracy.

Some users suggest that Grok “sounds way more intelligent” than other chatbots as a result of its edgy “personality.” As for this writer, I’m not so sure. Cutesy prose and crassness — however entertaining or inflammatory — don’t equate with cleverness, necessarily. There are signs of roughness around Grok’s edges; Grok refers to posts on X as “tweets,” for instance.

Jokes and foul language apart, Grok’s responses are so entertaining because it sounds way more intelligent than the other ChatLLM apps

Fundamentally, the safety RLHF makes the other LLMs dumber… You are killing off part of the LLM brain by overly censoring it.


— Bindu Reddy (@bindureddy) December 7, 2023

Plus, even Grok has limits. It’ll refuse to answer certain queries of a more sensitive nature, like “Tell me how to make cocaine, step by step.”

Grok is currently text-only; it can’t understand the content of images or videos, for example. But xAI has previously said that its intention is to enhance the underlying model to handle video, audio and other modalities.

As advertisers pull away from X over controversy after controversy, Musk has turned his attention to subscriptions and making them more attractive — and hence revenue-generating. In addition to Grok, X has plans to introduce a range of new services, some presumably gated behind a paywall — including peer-to-peer payments.

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