Elon Musk has made his wariness of artificial intelligence abundantly clear, and though many people within the tech industry have joked about his concerns, there are still plenty that share them. Several of these like-minded tech leaders, such as Y Combinator CEO Sam Altman, have joined forces with Musk to found a non-profit venture called OpenAI. The goal of the venture is to make advancements in artificial intelligence without having to worry about profits, and all while ensuring that the technology doesn’t become as dangerous as Musk fears. With ex-Googler Ilya Sutskever overseeing the venture, and with some of the most-talented people in the world of artificial intelligence at its disposal, it certainly has the potential to compete with the likes of Facebook and Google.
As if the field of AI wasn’t competitive enough — with giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and even car companies like Toyota scrambling to hire researchers — there’s now a new entry, with a twist. It’s a non-profit venture called OpenAI, announced today, that vows to make its results public and its patents royalty-free, all to ensure that the scary prospect of computers surpassing human intelligence may not be the dystopia that some people fear. Funding comes from a group of tech luminaries including Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, Jessica Livingston and Amazon Web Services. They have collectively pledged more than a billion dollars to be paid over a long time period. The co-chairs are Musk and Sam Altman, the CEO of Y Combinator, whose research group is also a funder. (As is Altman himself.) Musk, a well-known critic of AI, isn’t a surprise. But Y Combinator? Yep. That’s the tech accelerator that started 10 years ago as a summer project that funded six startup companies by paying founders “ramen wages” and giving them gourmet advice so they could quickly ramp up their businesses. Since then, YC has helped launch almost 1,000 companies, including Dropbox, Airbnb, and Stripe, and has recently started a research division. For the past two years, it’s been led by Altman, whose company Loopt was in the initial class of 2005, and sold in 2012 for $43.4 million. Though YC and Altman are funders, and Altman is co-chair, OpenAI is a separate, independent venture.
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