Why it matters: Today’s AI systems, impressive as they may be, are only able to serve a very narrow purpose. OpenAI wants to evolve that into what it calls an “artificial general intelligence” that can benefit society as a whole. With Microsoft throwing money their way that goal is now both easier to achieve and more likely to turn into something… potentially ugly.
The Redmond giant is investing an eye-watering $1 billion into OpenAI, a company famously founded by Elon Musk and Y Combinator head Sam Altman three years ago as a beacon for human-friendly AI research. This doubles the existing $1 billion commitment from its founders and various other investors.
The two companies will embark in a multiyear partnership that will see OpenAI make use of Microsoft’s vast Azure infrastructure to host and train AI software and accelerate development of the much-awaited Artificial General Intelligence. In turn, the Redmond giant will get to use the advancements and bake them into their own tech, with notable examples being Azure Cognitive Services and Windows Vision Skills — two key ingredients in the company’s recipe for “intelligent edge computing.”
It’s worth noting that when Musk and other wealthy entrepreneurs started OpenAI, it was meant to be a nonprofit research group that worked in a transparent and open way. Seeing as OpenAI also has a for-profit arm and Microsoft is jumping in on the action, it’ll be interesting to see what effect it will have on the open nature of the organization’s work, especially after Musk himself left it as a result of it taking a slightly different trajectory than originally intended.
In any case, this is a major win for OpenAI, who needs enormous computing power in the pursuit of its artificial general intelligence dreams. Earlier this year the researcher group showcased its OpenAI Five AI system against professional Dota 2 players, as well as a very worrisome algorithm that can churn out fake news like no other.