​OpenAI launches, aims to advance artificial intelligence to 'benefit humanity'

Can a non-profit with $1 billion in funding and backing from a series of Silicon Valley bigwigs keep artificial intelligence from upending humanity? We're about to find out.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

A who's who list of Silicon Valley investors have created a non-profit artificial intelligence company called OpenAI that aims to "benefit humanity as a whole."

OpenAI gets off the ground with $1 billion from Reid Hoffman, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Amazon Web Services, Infosys and YC Research. The general theme is that a non-profit research organization will be able to focus on positive aspects of artificial intelligence because it won't have a profit motive. OpenID noted that it would spend only a fraction of the $1 billion in its first few years.

The fear around artificial intelligence is that it will initially automate jobs and ultimately replace humans. Musk, who runs SpaceX as well as Tesla, has been outspoken about the concerns about artificial intelligence.

In a blog post introducing OpenAI, the group noted that its venture is uncertain, but has a lofty goal. The charter:

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.

And the caveat:

The outcome of this venture is uncertain and the work is difficult, but we believe the goal and the structure are right. We hope this is what matters most to the best in the field.

Add it up and OpenAI is trying to thread the needle between developing artificial intelligence and accidentally creating Skynet. After all, no one wants the Terminator series to be a documentary.

Also: Hawking, Musk and Wozniak call for ban on offensive AI weapons | Artificial intelligence: Should we be as terrified as Elon Musk and Bill Gates? | AI, Automation, and Tech Jobs

Can a group like OpenAI allow computers to be creative and experience the world without taking out humans. Ilya Sutskever, an AI research scientist at Google, will be the director of OpenAI. The group has also added a bevy of key researchers in the field.

A few thoughts:

  • OpenAI is a notable idea and could be a counterweight to keeping AI in check.
  • However, OpenAI is based on the idea that profit could result in an evil flavor of AI that would harm humans.
  • It's unclear how OpenAI would spread AI to the masses and evenly distribute the technology.
  • There are a lot of egos on this OpenAI bandwagon so the proof that this group can work together for a greater good will reside in the research in the future.

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