Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Y Combinator President Sam Altman will be cochairs of OpenAI, “a non-profit artificial intelligence research company,” which was announced on Friday.
“Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return,” says the OpenAI blog entry.
The company has already secured commitments for $1 billion in funding, according to that blog post, from a who’s who in tech, including Altman and Musk as well as Silicon Valley luminaries like Jessica Livingston and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel.
The funding also comes from companies like Amazon Web Services and Infosys.
The company’s research will be helmed by machine-learning expert Ilya Sutskever, with former Stripe CTO Greg Brockman coming over to OpenAI in the same role. Seven top research scientists also came aboard with OpenAI.
The idea is to build a body of research that’s not kept locked away by one company. OpenAI researchers will be encouraged to share their work, the company promises, up to and including any patents the company generates.
“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,” OpenAI writes.
Oddly enough, Musk and Altman have in the past expressed a deep mistrust of artificial intelligence, even while acknowledging its potential.
Musk, in particular, thinks that sci-fi visions of a world overrun by robots are actually within reason, while serial investor Altman once said that “AI will probably most likely lead to the end of the world, but in the meantime, there’ll be great companies.”
That’s a view reflected in the announcement:
It’s hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society, and it’s equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly.