Microsoft has announced that it is investing $1 billion in OpenAI, a San Francisco-based startup and research lab founded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman in 2015. Musk is no longer part of the company.
OpenAI’s main goal is to create artificial general intelligence (AGI) that is similar to humans in the ability to reason and solve unfamiliar problems. They want to focus on the good possibilities that can come from AI, and some of their recent developments include robot dexterity, gaming bots, and AI writing. They developed a model that was able to have writing skills that were comparable to humans. The company decided against releasing the technology because of the possibility of fake news and impersonations.
The new investment from Microsoft will provide cloud computing services to OpenAI, and they will start to collaborate and create new technologies together. OpenAI will also license technology to Microsoft, and Microsoft will then begin to commercialize it.
In a press release after the announcement of the investment, Greg Brockman, Chief Technology Officer of OpenAI, commented on the new collaboration.
“We believe that the creation of beneficial AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity”
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke about the new partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI and how it will keep “AI safety front and center” and “everyone will benefit.”
OpenAI began as a nonprofit research lab in 2015. It wanted to compete with companies like Google and Amazon, but they set out to develop AI safely and democratically. Eventually, they decided to set up a for-profit firm after needing money to continue. OpenAI has been making big claims in order to receive funding, and they now are a capped-profit entity where investors can only receive 100 times their investment.
Artificial general intelligence would be able to operate better than humans in many tasks. It would undoubtedly change society, and the outcome would depend on whether it was done properly and safely. It can bring huge advancements to food production, medicine, the energy sector, and endless other fields. At the same time, it can be incredibly dangerous. Experts in the field of artificial intelligence are constantly warning of the possible dangers. Artificial general intelligence is one of the main areas they are referring to. Some reasons are obvious, and others not so much. It can be weaponized by states, it might not follow human instructions, or the instructions might not be specific enough resulting in the AI doing something harmful, and it could be used by a small group of powerful individuals or companies that will take wealth inequality to an entirely new level. Because of this, many believe that artificial general intelligence needs regulation and safety features. This is one of OpenAI’s biggest concerns.
Greg Brockman spoke on this aspect of AGI during the announcement.
“To accomplish our mission of ensuring that AGI (whether built by us or not) benefits all of humanity, we’ll need to ensure that AGI is deployed safely and securely; that society is well-prepared for its implications; and that its economic upside is widely shared.”
Nobody knows exactly when we will have AGI. Scientists, researchers, and other experts all have different predictions. Some believe that humans will achieve AGI within 10 years while others are saying it will not be until 2099.
Either way, we will eventually have it. When humans finally do cross the line and achieve artificial general intelligence, it will change most of what we are familiar with, and it will be the next step in our development. The new partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI continue to take us down this path.