OpenAI: For-Profit for Good?

One of the founding principles of OpenAI, the company behind technology such as GPT-3 and DALL•E, is that AI should be available to all, not just the few.

Co-founded by Elon Musk and five others, OpenAI was partly created to counter the argument that AI could damage society.

Rather than keep AI for a select few, OpenAI was designed to democratize this technology to ensure AI benefits everyone.

The idea behind this was that human-level AI could only damage society if built or used incorrectly. Therefore, empowering people and teaching them about AI is the way to safeguard humanity from the threat of human-level AI.

To learn all about what human-level AI is and OpenAI’s mission to harness it for good, listen to this episode of Short and Sweet AI below or keep reading.

What is human-level AI?

Human-level AI, also known as Artificial General Intelligence or AGI, is different from the type of AI most of us use today.

The type of AI we use today is called Narrow AI. The main difference between these types is in their capabilities. Narrow AI is good at doing one thing, whatever it was designed to do. AGI, on the other hand, is good at any task.

Human-level AI was designed to “learn” how to do anything. It would be able to plan, reason, communicate in natural language, and integrate all these skills to apply to any given task – just like a human would. There’s a reason it’s called human-level AI, after all.

This type of AI is the Holy Grail of leading AI research groups worldwide, such as OpenAI and Google’s DeepMind.

How far are we from using human-level AI in everyday life?

There’s no doubt about it. Human-level AI is an exciting prospect! But how far away are we from seeing it in our day-to-day lives?

As AI development is accelerated exponentially, it’s hard to predict when human-level AI may come within reach.

Elon Musk wants computer scientists to build AI in a way that is safe and beneficial to humanity. He acknowledges the concern that developing human-level AI may create the very thing we are concerned about.

Yet, he believes the best defense is to empower as many people as possible to have AI. He doesn’t want any one person or a small group of people to have that AI superpower.

OpenAI’s mission statement: AI for all

OpenAI has a 400-word mission statement that highlights its belief that AI should be for all. The most concise summary of its mission has been phrased “… an ideal that we want AGI to go well.”

The two critical parts of its mission are to avoid building human-level AI that harms humanity and avoid concentrating AI’s power in the hands of the few.

Does that mean we will start to see more human-level AI in everyday life? It may be too soon to expect this.

OpenAI’s for-profit controversy

Despite this clear mission statement, the company has faced some recent controversy. OpenAI recently reorganized to form a separate section of the company that is for-profit.

Interestingly, OpenAI never released GPT-3 as open code for programmers to use and build on, as many hoped. Instead, OpenAI licensed GPT-3 exclusively to Microsoft for a billion dollars!

Some say this is a big step away from its non-profit, AI for all mission statement. However, OpenAI justified the decision by saying that remaining non-profit was financially untenable. They say that to fulfill their mission, billions of dollars are needed to fund research into AGI.

You can see the reason why they made this difficult decision. DeepMind, OpenAI’s main competitor, spent $442 million on AI research in the same year OpenAI spent just $11 million.

Like with any scientific research, if you’re dedicated to your mission, you first have to find consistent funding.

In some ways, the world doesn’t lack great ideas on making the world a better place. What it lacks is consistent funding and support to turn those ideas into a reality.

However, there has been an outcry from critics who point out that switching to a for-profit model is incompatible with OpenAI’s mission to democratize AI.

It’s a debate that will likely continue for years to come. Can OpenAI’s mission justify its decision to become for-profit? Only time will tell.

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