Billion dollar AI research firm to 'safeguard the world' and make us 'superhuman'

Elon Musk and Peter Thiel back billion dollar AI research firm to 'safeguard the world' and make us 'superhuman'

OpenAI will 'advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity'

Musk has previously claimed AI is 'more dangerous than nukes'

PUBLISHED: 19:05 EST, 11 December 2015 | UPDATED: 19:53 EST, 11 December 2015
Elon Musk, chief executive of electric carmaker Tesla Motors, on Friday unveiled OpenAI, a non-profit artificial intelligence research company that is backed by other prominent names from the technology world.

'Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return,' a blog post on OpenAI's website said.

The non-profit will be co-chaired by Musk and technology venture capitalist Sam Altman, who has backed Reddit.


'As a non-profit, our aim is to build value for everyone rather than shareholders.

'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.'

Musk told Backchannel 'As you know, I’ve had some concerns about AI for some time.'

He also revealed he wants to use AI to make us 'superhuman'

'If you think about how you use, say, applications on the internet, you’ve got your email and you’ve got the social media and with apps on your phone — they effectively make you superhuman and you don’t think of them as being other, you think of them as being an extension of yourself.

'So to the degree that we can guide AI in that direction, we want to do that.'

OpenAI's list of donors include PayPal Holding Inc co-founder Peter Thiel, LinkedIn Corp co-founder Reid Hoffman and Musk himself among others.

They have committed $1 billion for the fledgling firm, but OpenAI said it expects to spend a 'tiny fraction' of that amount in the next few years.

Other backers include's cloud unit Amazon Web Services, Indian IT giant Infosys and Greg Brockman, former chief technology officer of payments startup Stripe.

'I think the best defense against the misuse of AI is to empower as many people as possible to have AI,' said Musk.

'If everyone has AI powers, then there’s not any one person or a small set of individuals who can have AI superpower.'

The organisation is a non for profit, and will use computing time from Amazon.

'Since our research is free from financial obligations, we can better focus on a positive human impact,' the team said.

'We believe AI should be an extension of individual human wills and, in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as is possible safely.'

'The outcome of this venture is uncertain and the work is difficult, but we believe the goal and the structure are right.'

The organisation has pledged to try and combat 'surprises' from  other firms.

'Because of AI's surprising history, it's hard to predict when human-level AI might come within reach.

'When it does, it'll be important to have a leading research institution which can prioritize a good outcome for all over its own self-interest.'


Last year, Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind Space-X and Tesla, warned that the risk of 'something seriously dangerous happening' as a result of machines with artificial intelligence, could be in as few as five years.

He has previously linked the development of autonomous, thinking machines, to 'summoning the demon'.

Speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AeroAstro Centennial Symposium in October, Musk described artificial intelligence as our 'biggest existential threat'.

He said: 'I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it's probably that. So we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence.

'I'm increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish.

'With artificial intelligence we're summoning the demon.

'You know those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram, and the holy water, and … he's sure he can control the demon? Doesn't work out.'


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