Technology

OpenAI gets $1bn from Microsoft for developing AGI

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Microsoft is investing $1 billion in San Francisco-based Company, OpenAI. The company is dedicated to creating artificial general intelligence (AGI).  In exchange, the investment will make Microsoft the “exclusive” provider of cloud computing services (Microsoft Azure) to OpenAI, and the two companies will work together to develop new technologies. Moreover, it gets commitments from OpenAI to make Microsoft its “preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies.”

AGI refers to an AI system that is as flexible and generally intelligent as a human being.

OpenAI was founded in 2015 as a non-profit with $1 billion in funding from Silicon Valley investors Sam Altman, Peter Thiel and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, among others. Earlier this year, the group created a related for-profit entity to take in outside investment. Since then the company has received major investment from Tesla’s Elon Musk and Amazon.

The collaboration is meant to uphold and adhere to the “shared principles on ethics and trust” the companies said in the joined statement. and claims that the initiative will democratise AI technologies.

Since its founding, OpenAI has employed artificial intelligence researchers to make advances in the field, such as teaching a robotic hand to perform human-like tasks entirely in software, cutting down the cost and time to train robots. AI has a wide range of applications,  from researching how computers can generate realistic news stories with little more than headline suggestions,  to helping researchers solve daunting problems such as climate change.

OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman said the goal of the effort is to allow artificial intelligence to be “deployed safely and securely and that its economic benefits are widely distributed.”

However, in modern times the pace of technological advancement almost always outpaces the ethical discourse that goes along with it. So far there hasn’t been a detailed and concrete discussion from the tech community on the questions related to the ethicality around AI technologies and has now turned into a growing concern. In this context, it’s both refreshing and comforting to know that some companies are taking steps to address this issue.  A company that embodies these characteristics and sits at the forefront of establishing both the ethical guidelines and research and development (R&D) of artificial intelligence (AI) is Microsoft.

Microsoft was one of the earliest companies to begin discussing and advocating for an ethical perspective on artificial intelligence. The issue began to take off at the company in 2016 when CEO Satya Nadella spoke at a developer conference about how the company viewed some of the ethical issues around AI, and later that year published an article about these issues. Nadella’s primary focus was on Microsoft’s orientation toward using AI to augment human capabilities and building trust into intelligent products.

Microsoft has been named one of the most ethical companies in the world by Ethisphere every year since 2011. The tech giant is also a member of the non-profit “Partnership on AI” focused on helping the public understand the technology and practices in the field along with Amazon, Google, Facebook and IBM.

Artificial intelligence technologies will bring about both advances and changes to our economy and daily lives. At the same time, we must look at this future with critical eyes and focus on a common objective to strengthen our social fabric.

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