Microsoft Invests $1 Billion to Create a ‘World-Saving’ AI

July 24, 2019

The money is going to OpenAI, a San Francisco-based company co-founded by Elon Musk. Whether or not creating an artificial general intelligence is even possible remains up for debate, but OpenAI has been bullish on the prospect.

Microsoft’s latest goal is the stuff of sci-fi novels: To build an AI that’s smart enough to run society, and solve our most pressing problems. On Monday, the company said it wants to lay the foundation for its creation by investing $1 billion into OpenAI, a San Francisco-based company co-founded by Elon Musk.

The investment’s overarching aim is toward an artificial general intelligence (AGI), as opposed to narrow AI. Currently, the most cutting-edge AI programs have been designed to focus on a single task, whether it’s beating a human at a videogame or creating fake, but life-like photos.

AGI is far more ambitious: Imagine a computer smart enough to master one field, and then another, and another, and then using that knowledge for the betterment of mankind. “The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said in today’s announcement. “Our mission is to ensure that AGI technology benefits all of humanity.”

Whether or not creating an AGI is even possible remains up for debate. Meanwhile, others may cringe at the thought of an AI with the intellect to match and exceed humanity. However, OpenAI has been bullish on the prospect. The company points to the breakthroughs researchers have made in last decade in getting AI algorithms to recognize images, translate languages, and control robots. One of OpenAI’s own AI projects can write fiction like a human can (sort of).

However, creating new AI-based technologies costs a lot of money. Not only does it require programming, but also renting access to thousands of servers. So OpenAI has been seeking funding. “The most obvious way to cover costs is to build a product, but that would mean changing our focus. Instead, we intend to license some of our pre-AGI technologies, with Microsoft becoming our preferred partner for commercializing them,” Altman wrote in a separate blog post.

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Related: Elon Musk, Keep the Hell Away From My Brain

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