OpenAI: Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and Sam Altman’s new AI supergroup

14 Dec 2015

Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and others have created a bona fide Silicon Valley supergroup with the creation of OpenAI, a research group dedicated to advancing AI for the benefit of humanity, rather than purely for financial gain.

The Open AI initiative is a coming together of the brightest, and richest, minds of the American tech sector, who feel that the way AI technology is going has shown few real signs of progress, with a preference for whatever can bring the most financial returns for smallest input.

With Elon Musk as one of its founders and one of its household names, the decision to partner with a group keen to advance AI technology would seem strange given his signing of an open letter to ensure companies agree to not develop AI technology that could lead to humanity’s downfall.

However, Musk is joined as one of its backers by Y Combinator’s Sam Altman and Jessica Livingston; former CTO of Stripe Greg Brockman; co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman and former PayPal CEO and current venture capitalist, Peter Thiel.

A researcher’s dream

Essentially, with all the vast sums of money these people have at their disposal, the research team led by one of Google’s top machine-learning researchers, Ilya Sutskever, will get free rein to research what they feel is important, rather than what they can achieve under a limited budget, a researcher’s dream, without question.

“As a non-profit, our aim is to build value for everyone rather than shareholders,” OpenAI said in its opening blog post.

“Researchers will be strongly encouraged to publish their work, whether as papers, blog posts, or code, and our patents (if any) will be shared with the world. We’ll freely collaborate with others across many institutions and expect to work with companies to research and deploy new technologies.”

In total, $1bn will be assigned to OpenAI, however the organisation has said that it only expects to spend a fraction of this amount in the coming years, which can only mean good things for the technology’s progress.

Elon Musk image via Haddad Media/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic