In October 2014, Elon Musk stirred controversy in an interview at MIT by declaring that “with artificial intelligence, we’re summoning the demon,” as well as calling AI “our biggest existential threat.”
Since then, the man behind SpaceX, Tesla and other groundbreaking technology ventures has decided that the best way to cage the monster that AI could become is by controlling one of the largest research think tanks on the subject.
Enter OpenAI. His upcoming AI-centered non-profit, called OpenAI, will be centered in San Francisco with the goal of developing an open source artificial intelligence and ensuring that advanced artificial tools remain available to the public at large. Musk isn’t alone with his billion-dollar dream, though.
Other investors, including Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, Jessica Livingston of Y Combinator, Greg Brockman, former CTO of Amazon Web Services and Stripe, and Indian software consulting firm Infosys, are firmly in the OpenAI corner. The financials are still up in the air, but because of the commitments from so many well-known technological minds, early staffing has been a cinch.
The group will start work with seven researchers, including Google’s own machine-learning expert Ilya Sutskever and Brockman himself. Other researchers have not been named, but are reported to include stand-outs from graduate programs at universities like Stanford, University of California, Berkeley and New York University. Musk reports that these brilliant minds have been more interested in working on his project than in earning huge paychecks, with many turning down higher salaries elsewhere to work with him.
This is a good sign of things to come, especially when Musk himself is so concerned about the risk of AI to humanity. In an interview, he told the New York Times that “there is always some risk that in actually trying to advance A.I. we may create the thing we are concerned about.”
Still, with other groups like Paul Allen’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Toyota’s recent pledge to invest one billion dollars in a five year research effort in artificial intelligence, it would seem that it’s too late to put the genie back in the bottle — so Musk and his group might as well help steer the future of computer intelligence.