Move over Artificial Intelligence (AI) as San Francisco-based OpenAI — co-founded by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and now in the lap of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella — is now aiming to extend the benefits of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) to the humanity.
For OpenAI, a safe and beneficial AGI means highly autonomous systems that outperform humans at most economically valuable work which is the next step for AI with “widely distributed economic benefits”.
The start-up with 100 people onboard is building free software for training, benchmarking and experimenting with AI.
Nadella who sees a greater role of AI for humanity will invest $1 billion in the next few years in OpenAI to support it build “democratised AGI” models.
OpenAI would develop a hardware and software platform within Microsoft Azure Cloud platform which will scale to AGI. The start-up would also jointly develop new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, further extending Microsoft Azure’s capabilities in large-scale AI systems.
Four years back, global technology stalwarts like Infosys, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and YC Research committed $1 billion for OpenAI to advance digital intelligence for humanity’s maximum benefit.
Back then, with Y Combinator’s Sam Altman (now OpenAI CEO) and Musk as co-chairs and Pieter Abbeel, Yoshua Bengio, Alan Kay, Sergey Levine and Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka as advisors, OpenAI had no financial obligations and pressures to generate profits.
“Since our research is free from financial obligations, we can better focus on a positive human impact. We believe AI should be an extension of individual human wills and, in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as is possible safely,” said OpenAI in a blog post in December 2015.
Musk, who is the staunch critic of AI, stepped down from OpenAI’s board in 2018.
With Nadella infusing $1 billion, OpenAI believes 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”.
Each year since 2012, the world has seen advancements in AI capabilities like vision (2012), simple video games (2013), machine translation (2014), complex board games (2015), speech synthesis (2016), image generation (2017), robotic control (2018), and writing text (2019).
Still, AI system building today involves a lot of manual engineering for each well-defined task.
In contrast, an AGI will be a system capable of mastering a field of study to the world-expert level and mastering more fields than any one human — like a tool which combines the skills of Curie, Turing and Bach.
“An AGI working on a problem would be able to see connections across disciplines that no human could,” said OpenAI.
The for-profit startup wants AGI to work with people to solve currently intractable multi-disciplinary problems, including global challenges such as climate change, affordable and high-quality healthcare, and personalized education.
“We think its impact should be to give everyone economic freedom to pursue what they find most fulfilling, creating new opportunities for all of our lives that are unimaginable today,” said the company.
“We commit to use any influence we obtain over AGI’s deployment to ensure it is used for the benefit of all, and to avoid enabling uses of AI or AGI that harm humanity or unduly concentrate power.
OpenAI’s investors include Reid Hoffman’s charitable foundation and Khosla Ventures. The start-up has created “MuseNet” — a deep neural network that can generate four-minute musical compositions with 10 different instruments, and can combine styles from country to Mozart to the Beatles.
It also created a bot which beat the world”s top professionals at 1v1 matches of “Dota 2” competition. The bot learned the game from scratch by self-play, and does not use imitation learning or tree search.
“This is a step towards building AI systems which accomplish well-defined goals in messy, complicated situations involving real humans,” said OpenAI.
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