Elon Musk takes the development of artificial intelligence very seriously. He has been on the forefront of the political and social movement arguing for the careful control of AI development, and for all AI to be 100% banned from any military applications.
Related to this personal passion of Musk’s, he and several other socially-conscious entrepreneurs announced the launch of a new non-profit organization called OpenAI on Friday, December 11th.
According to the statement introducing the new non-profit: “OpenAI is a non-profit artificial intelligence research company. Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.”
Musk and other major donors ponied up $1 billion to support OpenAI
Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman, Jessica Livingston, Peter Thiel, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Infosys, and YC Research have all made donations in support of OpenAI totaling $1 billion. The statement noted the organization only anticipates spending a small amount of the $1 billion endowment in the next few years.
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The founders emphasize that their plan is to grow OpenAI into a world class research institution. Equally importantly, as a non-profit, the primary goal is to “build value for everyone rather than shareholders.” Of note, all researchers will be encouraged to publish their work, whether as papers, blog posts, or code, and all patents and other intellectual property owned by the non-profit will be shared with everyone. The OpenAI team plans to collaborate with many other institutions and anticipates working with a range of tech firms to research, develop and deploy new technologies.
The research director at OpenAI is Ilya Sutskever, a welll-known expert in machine learning. The CTO is Greg Brockman, formerly the CTO of Stripe. Other founding members include research engineers and scientists such as Trevor Blackwell, Vicki Cheung, Andrej Karpathy, Durk Kingma, John Schulman, Pamela Vagata, and Wojciech Zaremba. Pieter Abbeel, Yoshua Bengio, Alan Kay, Sergey Levine, and Vishal Sikka are all notable advisors to the non-profit. The co-chairs of OpenAI are Sam Altman and Elon Musk.
When asked in an interview if sharing this new AI technology could actually lead to empowering bad actors (ie, they would end up giving state-of-the-art AI to all comers, including sociopaths and madmen). The founders of Open AI played down this risk, arguing that the power of the many will outweigh the power of the few. “Just like humans protect against Dr. Evil by the fact that most humans are good, and the collective force of humanity can contain the bad elements,” Altman commented, “we think its far more likely that many, many AIs, will work to stop the occasional bad actors.”
OpenAI is changing the definition of competition
Analysts point out that given OpenAI’s mission of giving everyone access to new ideas about AI, the organization will at least serve as a check on giant tech firms like Google and Facebook donminating the sector. Since Musk and friends are putting up over a billion dollars of their own cash into the venture, OpenAI is in one sense joining the trend in redefining the very concept of competition as companies and investors are hoping to compete with rivals and/or create new markets by giving way their technologies for free.