Microsoft’s new billion dollar partnership with OpenAI is a big bet on the future of artificial intelligence.
Microsoft Artificial Intelligence-A lot of startups in the San Francisco Bay Area claim that they’re planning to transform the world. San-Francisco-based, Elon Musk-founded OpenAI has a stronger claim than most: It wants to build artificial general intelligence (AGI), an AI system that has, like humans, the capacity to reason across different domains and apply its skills to unfamiliar problems.
Today, it announced a billion dollar partnership with Microsoft to fund its work — the latest sign that AGI research is leaving the domain of science fiction and entering the realm of serious research.
“We believe that the creation of beneficial AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” Greg Brockman, chief technology officer of OpenAI, said in a press release today.
Existing AI systems beat humans at lots of narrow tasks — chess, Go, Starcraft, image generation — and they’re catching up to humans at others, like translation and news reporting. But an artificial general intelligence would be one system with the capacity to surpass us at all of those things. Enthusiasts argue that it would enable centuries of technological advances to arrive, effectively, all at once — transforming medicine, food production, green technologies, and everything else in sight.
Others warn that, if poorly designed, it could be a catastrophe for humans in a few different ways. A sufficiently advanced AI could pursue a goal that we hadn’t intended — a recipe for catastrophe. It could turn out unexpectedly impossible to correct once running. Or it could be maliciously used by a small group of people to harm others. Or it could just make the rich richer and leave the rest of humanity even further in the dust.
Getting AGI right may be one of the most important challenges ahead for humanity. Microsoft’s billion dollar investment has the potential to push the frontiers forward for AI development, but to get AGI right, investors have to be willing to prioritize safety concerns that might slow commercial development.
A transformative technology with enormous potential benefits — and real risks
Some analysts have compared the development of AGI to the development of electricity. It’s not just one breakthrough; it enables countless other changes in the way we live our lives.