The AI lab gets to throw Microsoft's supercomputing and cloud computing muscle at its bid to build artificial general intelligence (AGI).
The news: Microsoft says OpenAI will help it jointly develop and train new technologies for its Azure cloud computing service. It will work with it to develop new supercomputing hardware to try to achieve AGI-machines with the capacity to learn tasks the way human beings do. That's a holy grail of AI that still remains (and may always remain) out of reach. OpenAI's founders, which include Elon Musk and other tech leaders, including AGI could help solve long-standing challenges in areas ranging from climate change to health care.
Show me the money: Since it was set up in 2015, OpenAI has developed the most sought after defeat human players at games like Dota 2 and frighteningly effective language AI, among other things. It started as a non-profit research lab with the mission of developing safe AGI, but AI models need data of crunch, and that requires huge amounts of expensive computing power. So earlier this year, open up a new for-profit arm to help pay for its work. (Open AI calls its model “capped profit” because investors can achieve a maximum of 100 times return on their investment. Still, not bad.)
Go big or go home: The investment is part of Microsoft's new strategy and will help keep firm pace with rivals like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, which have all spent big on AI in recent years.
While many researchers believe AGI is unachievable, OpenAI may hope to reach it by massively scaling existing deep-learning approaches rather than by developing new ones. There is no guarantee that the problem will be cracked if the can be cracked, so Microsoft's billion-dollar bet is definitely a risky one.
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