We have been featuring articles on the rapid developments in Artificial Intelligence and its contrasting implications for humanity. This one is about the human being closely associated with the development – Sam Altman. Altman is the founder and CEO of OpenAI, the now for-profit company that owns ChatGPT, the generative AI tool that has taken the world by storm in terms of its effectiveness in certain areas as well as its accessibility to one and all. The article relates to the dichotomy in public discourse of AI with Altman and OpenAI’s own origins.
“OpenAI, the company he leads, in November released ChatGPT, the chatbot with an uncanny ability to produce humanlike writing that has become one of the most viral products in the history of technology. In the process, OpenAI went from a small nonprofit into a multibillion-dollar company, at near record speed, thanks in part to the launch of a for-profit arm that enabled it to raise $13 billion from Microsoft Corp. , according to investor documents.
This success has come as part of a delicate balancing act. Mr. Altman said he fears what could happen if AI is rolled out into society recklessly. He co-founded OpenAI eight years ago as a research nonprofit, arguing that it’s uniquely dangerous to have profits be the main driver of developing powerful AI models.
He is so wary of profit as an incentive in AI development that he has taken no direct financial stake in the business he built, he said—an anomaly in Silicon Valley, where founders of successful startups typically get rich off their equity.
….His goal, he said, is to forge a new world order in which machines free people to pursue more creative work. In his vision, universal basic income—the concept of a cash stipend for everyone, no strings attached—helps compensate for jobs replaced by AI. Mr. Altman even thinks that humanity will love AI so much that an advanced chatbot could represent “an extension of your will.”
In the long run, he said, he wants to set up a global governance structure that would oversee decisions about the future of AI and gradually reduce the power OpenAI’s executive team has over its technology.
Backers say his brand of social-minded capitalism makes him the ideal person to lead OpenAI. Others, including some who’ve worked for him, say he’s too commercially minded and immersed in Silicon Valley thinking to lead a technological revolution that is already reshaping business and social life. “
What changed then for Altman to pivot to a more commercial approach:
“OpenAI researchers soon concluded that the most promising path to achieve artificial general intelligence rested in large language models, or computer programs that mimic the way humans read and write. Such models were trained on large volumes of text and required a massive amount of computing power that OpenAI wasn’t equipped to fund as a nonprofit, according to Mr. Altman.
…OpenAI executives ended up reviving an unusual idea that had been floated earlier in the company’s history: creating a for-profit arm, OpenAI LP, that would report to the nonprofit parent.
Reid Hoffman, a LinkedIn co-founder who advised OpenAI at the time and later served on the board, said the idea was to attract investors eager to make money from the commercial release of some OpenAI technology, accelerating OpenAI’s progress.
“You want to be there first and you want to be setting the norms,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why speed is a moral and ethical thing here.””
When he started looking for investors, he found an ideal partner in Microsoft who could not only provide the capital but also the compute technology and resources alongside an implicit ability to commercialise. His critics have been vocal with their apprehensions:
“OpenAI’s lead safety researcher, Dario Amodei, and his lieutenants feared the deal would allow Microsoft to sell products using powerful OpenAI technology before it was put through enough safety testing, former employees said. They felt that OpenAI’s technology was far from ready for a large release—let alone with one of the world’s largest software companies—worrying it could malfunction or be misused for harm in ways they couldn’t predict.
Mr. Amodei also worried the deal would tether OpenAI’s ship to just one company—Microsoft—making it more difficult for OpenAI to stay true to its founding charter’s commitment to assist another project if it got to AGI first, the former employees said.
Microsoft initially invested $1 billion in OpenAI. While the deal gave OpenAI its needed money, it came with a hitch: exclusivity. OpenAI agreed to only use Microsoft’s giant computer servers, via its Azure cloud service, to train its AI models, and to give the tech giant the sole right to license OpenAI’s technology for future products.
“You kind of have to jump off the cliff and hope you land,” Mr. Nadella said in a recent interview. “That’s kind of how platform shifts happen.”
“The deal completely undermines those tenets to which they secured nonprofit status,” said Gary Marcus, an emeritus professor of psychology and neural science at New York University who co-founded a machine-learning company. “
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