How $1bn from Microsoft could help to mimic the brain

Now, at 34, he is the chief executive of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence lab he helped create in 2015 with Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive of …

As the waitress approached the table, Sam Altman held up his phone. That made it easier to see the dollar amount typed into an investment contract he had spent the last 30 days negotiating with Microsoft. “$1,000,000,000,” it read.

The investment from Microsoft, signed early this month and announced on Monday, signals a new direction for Altman’s research lab. In March, Altman stepped down from his daily duties as the head of Y Combinator, the startup “accelerator” that catapulted him into the Silicon Valley elite.

Now, at 34, he is the chief executive of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence lab he helped create in 2015 with Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive of the electric carmaker Tesla.

Musk left the lab last year to concentrate on his own AI ambitions at Tesla. Since then, Altman has remade OpenAI, founded as a nonprofit, into a for-profit company so it could more aggressively pursue financing. Now he has landed a marquee investor to help it chase an outrageously lofty goal.

He and his team of researchers hope to build artificial general intelligence, or AGI, a machine that can do anything the human brain can do. AGI still has a whiff of science fiction. But in their agreement, Microsoft and OpenAI discuss the possibility with the same matter-of-fact language they might apply to any other technology they hope to build, whether it’s a cloud-computing service or a new kind of robotic arm.

Sam Altman, who manages the company OpenAI, at the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Washington. “My goal in running OpenAI is to successfully create broadly beneficial AGI.” Photograph: Ian C Bates/New York Times
Sam Altman, who manages the company OpenAI, at the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Washington. “My goal in running OpenAI is to successfully create broadly beneficial AGI.” Photograph: Ian C Bates/New York Times

“My goal in running OpenAI is to successfully create broadly beneficial AGI,” Altman said in a recent interview. And this partnership is the most important milestone so far on that path.”

In recent years, a small but fervent community of artificial intelligence researchers have set their sights on AGI, and they are backed by some of the wealthiest companies in the world. DeepMind, a top lab owned by Google’s parent company, says it is chasing the same goal.

Most experts believe AGI will not arrive for decades or even centuries – if it arrives at all. Even Altman admits OpenAI may never get there. But the race is on nonetheless. In a joint phone interview with Altman, Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, later compared AGI to his company’s efforts to build a quantum computer, a machine that would be exponentially faster than today’s machines.

“Whether it’s our pursuit of quantum computing or it’s a pursuit of AGI, I think you need these high-ambition North Stars,” he said.

Altman’s 100-employee company recently built a system that could beat the world’s best players at a video game called Dota 2. Just a few years ago, this kind of thing did not seem possible. Dota 2 is a game in which each player must navigate a complex, three-dimensional environment along with several other players, co-ordinating a careful balance between attack and defence. In other words, it requires old-fashioned teamwork, and that is a difficult skill for machines to master.

Computer chips

OpenAI mastered Dota 2 thanks to a mathematical technique called reinforcement learning, which allows machines to learn tasks by extreme trial and error. By playing the game over and over again, automated pieces of software, called agents, learned which strategies are successful.

The agents learned those skills over the course of several months, racking up more than 45,000 years of game play. That required enormous amounts of raw computing power. OpenAI spent millions of dollars renting access to tens of thousands of computer chips inside cloud computing services run by companies like Google and Amazon.

Eventually, Altman and his colleagues believe, they can build AGI in a similar way. If they can gather enough data to describe everything humans deal with on a daily basis – and if they have enough computing power to analyse all that data – they believe they can rebuild human intelligence.

Altman painted the deal with Microsoft as a step in this direction. As Microsoft invests in OpenAI, the tech giant will also work on building new kinds of computing systems that can help the lab analyse increasingly large amounts of information.

Satya Nadella of Microsoft

“This is about really having that tight feedback cycle between a high-ambition pursuit of AGI and what is our core business, which is building the world’s computer,” Nadella said.

That work will likely include computer chips designed specifically for training artificial intelligence systems. Like Google, Amazon and dozens of startups across the globe, Microsoft is already exploring this new kind of chip.

Most of that $1 billion, Altman said, will be spent on the computing power OpenAI needs to achieve its ambitions. And under the terms of the new contract, Microsoft will eventually become the lab’s sole source of computing power.

Nadella said Microsoft would not necessarily invest that $1 billion (€900 million) all at once. It could be doled out over the course of a decade or more. Microsoft is investing dollars that will be fed back into its own business, as OpenAI purchases computing power from the software giant, and the collaboration between the two companies could yield a wide array of technologies.

Because AGI is not yet possible, OpenAI is starting with narrower projects. It built a system recently that tries to understand natural language. The technology could feed everything from digital assistants like Alexa and Google Home to software that automatically analyses documents inside law firms, hospitals and other businesses.

The deal is also a way for these two companies to promote themselves. OpenAI needs computing power to fulfill its ambitions, but it must also attract the world’s leading researchers, which is hard to do in today’s market for talent. Microsoft is competing with Google and Amazon in cloud computing, where AI capabilities are increasingly important.

Real world

The question is how seriously we should take the idea of artificial general intelligence. Like others in the tech industry, Altman often talks as if its future is inevitable.

“I think that AGI will be the most important technological development in human history,” he said during the interview with Nadella. Altman alluded to concerns from people like Musk that AGI could spin outside our control.

“Figuring out a way to do that is going to be one of the most important societal challenges we face.”

But a game like Dota 2 is a far cry from the complexities of the real world. Artificial intelligence has improved in significant ways in recent years, thanks to many of the technologies cultivated at places like DeepMind and OpenAI.

There are systems that can recognise images, identify spoken words, and translate between languages with an accuracy that was not possible just a few years ago. But this does not mean that AGI is near or even that it is possible.

“We are no closer to AGI than we have ever been,” said Oren Etzioni, chief executive of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, an influential research lab in Seattle.

Geoffrey Hinton, the Google researcher who recently won the Turing Award – often called the Nobel Prize of computing – for his contributions to artificial intelligence over the past several years, was recently asked about the race to AGI.

“It’s too big a problem,” he said. “I’d much rather focus on something where you can figure out how you might solve it.”

The other question with AGI, he added, is: Why do we need it?

– The New York Times News Service

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Microsoft Is Funding $1 Billion in Holy Grail of AI World – OpenAI

Maybe one of the vital critical recent offers is a $1 billion funding in OpenAI. The objective is to construct a next-generation AI platform that is not only …

Microsoft is again racing its winning ways. And with its boosting profits, the company is looking for ways to direct its enormous resources to sustain up the momentum. Maybe one of the vital critical recent offers is a $1 billion funding in OpenAI. The objective is to construct a next-generation AI platform that is not only powerful but moral and reliable

Founded in 2015, OpenAI is one of the few corporations — along with Google’s DeepMind — that’s focused on AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), which is admittedly the Holy Grail of the AI world. According to a blog post from the company: “AGI will be a system capable of mastering a subject of study to the world-expert stage, and mastering extra fields than any human-like a tool which combines the abilities of Curie, Turing, and Bach. An AGI engaged on a problem would be able to see connections throughout disciplines that no human may connect. We want AGI to work with individuals to unravel currently intractable multi-disciplinary problems, together with world challenges similar to climate change, reasonably priced and high-quality healthcare, and personalized education. We predict its influence should be to provide everybody economic freedom to pursue what they discover most fulfilling, creating new alternatives for all of our lives that are unimaginable immediately.”

It’s a bold vision. However, OpenAI has already made significant advances in AI. “It has pushed the limits of what AI can achieve in lots of fields. However, there are two, in particular, that stands out,” said Stephane Rion, who’s the Senior Deep Learning Specialist of Emerging Practices at Teradata. The first one is reinforcement studying, the place OpenAI has pushed some main analysis breakthroughs, together with designing an AI system able to defeat most of its human challengers in the video game Dota 2. OpenAI has also made some significant advances in the space of Natural Language Processing (NLP).

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With $1 billion from Microsoft, an AI lab wants to mimic the brain

Sam Altman, left who manages the company OpenAI, and Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, which is investing $1 billion in OpenAI, at the …

“$1,000,000,000,” it read.

The investment from Microsoft, signed early this month and announced Monday, signals a new direction for Altman’s research lab.

In March, Altman stepped down from his daily duties as the head of Y Combinator, the startup “accelerator” that catapulted him into the Silicon Valley elite. Now, at 34, he is the chief executive of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence lab he helped create in 2015 with Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive of the electric carmaker Tesla.

Musk left the lab last year to concentrate on his own AI ambitions at Tesla. Since then, Altman has remade OpenAI, founded as a nonprofit, into a for-profit company so it could more aggressively pursue financing. Now he has landed a marquee investor to help it chase an outrageously lofty goal.

He and his team of researchers hope to build artificial general intelligence, or AGI, a machine that can do anything the human brain can do.

AGI still has a whiff of science fiction. But in their agreement, Microsoft and OpenAI discuss the possibility with the same matter-of-fact language they might apply to any other technology they hope to build, whether it’s a cloud-computing service or a new kind of robotic arm.

“My goal in running OpenAI is to successfully create broadly beneficial AGI,” Altman said in a recent interview. “And this partnership is the most important milestone so far on that path.”

In recent years, a small but fervent community of artificial intelligence researchers have set their sights on AGI, and they are backed by some of the wealthiest companies in the world. DeepMind, a top lab owned by Google’s parent company, says it is chasing the same goal.

Most experts believe AGI will not arrive for decades or even centuries — if it arrives at all. Even Altman admits OpenAI may never get there. But the race is on nonetheless.

In a joint phone interview with Altman, Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, later compared AGI to his company’s efforts to build a quantum computer, a machine that would be exponentially faster than today’s machines. “Whether it’s our pursuit of quantum computing or it’s a pursuit of AGI, I think you need these high-ambition North Stars,” he said.

Altman’s 100-employee company recently built a system that could beat the world’s best players at a video game called Dota 2. Just a few years ago, this kind of thing did not seem possible.

Dota 2 is a game in which each player must navigate a complex, three-dimensional environment along with several other players, coordinating a careful balance between attack and defense. In other words, it requires old-fashioned teamwork, and that is a difficult skill for machines to master.

OpenAI mastered Dota 2 thanks to a mathematical technique called reinforcement learning, which allows machines to learn tasks by extreme trial and error. By playing the game over and over again, automated pieces of software, called agents, learned which strategies are successful.

The agents learned those skills over the course of several months, racking up more than 45,000 years of game play. That required enormous amounts of raw computing power. OpenAI spent millions of dollars renting access to tens of thousands of computer chips inside cloud computing services run by companies like Google and Amazon.

Eventually, Altman and his colleagues believe, they can build AGI in a similar way. If they can gather enough data to describe everything humans deal with on a daily basis — and if they have enough computing power to analyse all that data — they believe they can rebuild human intelligence.

Altman painted the deal with Microsoft as a step in this direction. As Microsoft invests in OpenAI, the tech giant will also work on building new kinds of computing systems that can help the lab analyse increasingly large amounts of information.

“This is about really having that tight feedback cycle between a high-ambition pursuit of AGI and what is our core business, which is building the world’s computer,” Nadella said.

That work will likely include computer chips designed specifically for training artificial intelligence systems. Like Google, Amazon and dozens of startups across the globe, Microsoft is already exploring this new kind of chip.

Most of that $1 billion, Altman said, will be spent on the computing power OpenAI needs to achieve its ambitions. And under the terms of the new contract, Microsoft will eventually become the lab’s sole source of computing power.

Nadella said Microsoft would not necessarily invest that $1 billion all at once. It could be doled out over the course of a decade or more. Microsoft is investing dollars that will be fed back into its own business, as OpenAI purchases computing power from the software giant, and the collaboration between the two companies could yield a wide array of technologies.

Because AGI is not yet possible, OpenAI is starting with narrower projects. It built a system recently that tries to understand natural language. The technology could feed everything from digital assistants like Alexa and Google Home to software that automatically analyzes documents inside law firms, hospitals and other businesses.

The deal is also a way for these two companies to promote themselves. OpenAI needs computing power to fulfill its ambitions, but it must also attract the world’s leading researchers, which is hard to do in today’s market for talent. Microsoft is competing with Google and Amazon in cloud computing, where AI capabilities are increasingly important.

The question is how seriously we should take the idea of artificial general intelligence. Like others in the tech industry, Altman often talks as if its future is inevitable.

“I think that AGI will be the most important technological development in human history,” he said during the interview with Nadella. Altman alluded to concerns from people like Musk that AGI could spin outside our control. “Figuring out a way to do that is going to be one of the most important societal challenges we face.”

But a game like Dota 2 is a far cry from the complexities of the real world.

Artificial intelligence has improved in significant ways in recent years, thanks to many of the technologies cultivated at places like DeepMind and OpenAI. There are systems that can recognize images, identify spoken words, and translate between languages with an accuracy that was not possible just a few years ago. But this does not mean that AGI is near or even that it is possible.

“We are no closer to AGI than we have ever been,” said Oren Etzioni, chief executive of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, an influential research lab in Seattle.

Geoffrey Hinton, the Google researcher who recently won the Turing Award — often called the Nobel Prize of computing — for his contributions to artificial intelligence over the past several years, was recently asked about the race to AGI.

“It’s too big a problem,” he said. “I’d much rather focus on something where you can figure out how you might solve it.” The other question with AGI, he added, is: Why do we need it?

c.2019 New York Times News Service

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To Pursue Holy Grail of AI Microsoft Invests 1 Billion Amount in OpenAI

Microsoft is funding $1 billion in OpenAI, a San Francisco-based analysis lab-based by Silicon Valley luminaries, including Elon Musk and Sam …

Microsoft is funding $1 billion in OpenAI, a San Francisco-based analysis lab-based by Silicon Valley luminaries, including Elon Musk and Sam Altman, that’s devoted to creating artificial general intelligence (AGI).

The investment will make Microsoft the “unique” supplier of cloud computing companies to OpenAI, and the two companies will work together to develop new applied sciences. OpenAI can even license some of its techs to Microsoft to commercialize, although when this may occasionally occur and what tech shall be concerned has but to be announced.

OpenAI started as a non-profit analysis lab in 2015 and was supposed to match the excessive-tech R&D of companies like Google and Amazon, whereas specializing in creating AI securely and democratically. However earlier this year, OpenAI said it wanted extra money to proceed this work, and it arranges a new for-profit firm to hunt outside funding.

To draw backers, OpenAI has made outrageous guarantees in regards to the potential of its know-how. Altman, who became CEO of the brand new for-revenue OpenAI, has said that if the lab does handle to create artificial general intelligence, it may “maybe seize the sunshine cone of all future worth within the universe.”

With a purpose to restrain the greed of buyers, OpenAI operates as a capped-revenue entity, that means anybody who places in cash can solely count on returns 100 instances their funding. That’s not providing “all future worth” within the universe. Nevertheless, it’s not pocket change both. Precisely what phrases Microsoft and OpenAI have agreed on with this $1 billion funding isn’t clear.

When exactly researchers may be capable of creating AGI — and whether or not it’s even potential — is a subject of energetic debate locally. In a current survey of a few of the subject’s principal consultants, the standard estimate was that there was a 50 % probability of making AGI by the year 2099.

To date, OpenAI has undoubtedly impressed the AI world with its analysis. It has set fresh benchmarks for robot dexterity; its gaming bots have flattened human winners at Dota 2; and it’s designed remarkably flexible text-generation systems, which might write something from convincing tune lyrics to fake information articles and quick tales.

But none of those initiatives seem like the considerable step-change that a leap to AGI entails. In the meantime, different researchers have bemoaned OpenAI’s hyperbole and questioned whether or not its swap to for-profit research undermines its claims to be “democratizing” AI.

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Elon Musk-founded OpenAI gets $1 billion boost from Microsoft investment

OpenAI is a nonprofit AI research organization co-founded by Musk, serial entrepreneur Peter Thiel, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman with the goal of …

Microsoft’s interest in expanding its Azure cloud computing service to include artificial intelligence (AI) supercomputing technologies has led to a new partnership agreement with the Elon Musk-backed company, OpenAI. An investment of $1 billion dollars was recently made by Microsoft into the venture to develop an Azure-based hardware and software platform that will scale to artificial general intelligence (AGI). In turn, OpenAI will use Microsoft as their exclusive cloud provider.

OpenAI is a nonprofit AI research organization co-founded by Musk, serial entrepreneur Peter Thiel, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman with the goal of developing beneficial, open source AI to combat any future rise of harmful AI. Musk stepped down from the Board of Directors in early 2018 to avoid any conflicts with Tesla’s Autopilot program; however, he still remains as a benefactor and advisor. Tesla’s Director of AI and Autopilot Vision, Andrej Karpathy, previously worked as a neural network researcher for OpenAI.

While the venture is backed by significant private investment, the long-term goals of OpenAI require even greater resources. The company’s motivation to create the new investment partnership with Microsoft was partially due to financial constraints caused by computing hardware needs. The financial requirements to retain top talent are also significant – OpenAI’s tax filings from 2016 revealed its top researcher was paid a $1.9 million dollar salary, with others receiving significant amounts as well.

Harry Shuman of Microsoft and Sam Altman of OpenAI discuss their new partnership and the future of AI. | Image: Microsoft/YouTube

“OpenAI is producing a sequence of increasingly powerful AI technologies, which requires a lot of capital for computational power. The most obvious way to cover costs is to build a product, but that would mean changing our focus. Instead, we intend to license some of our pre-AGI technologies, with Microsoft becoming our preferred partner for commercializing them,” OpenAI’s press release announcing the new partnership explained.

The connection between Microsoft and OpenAI is not new. In 2016, the companies jointly announced they were working together to run most of OpenAI’s large-scale experiments on Azure, making it their primary cloud platform for deep learning and AI. Azure had hardware configurations optimized for AI computing needs and a roadmap to expand those capabilities even further. One of the stated joint goals between Microsoft and OpenAI is the democratization of AI, and cloud computing is a large part of making that a reality as hardware and software resources are no longer required to be local to the user.

OpenAI has already created some impressive AI capabilities. In August last year, company bots created for the video game Dota 2 defeated a team of highly skilled human players in two games out of three. To accomplish the task, serious amounts of hardware and training were required. The nonprofit research lab employed a scaled-up version of Proximal Policy Optimization running on 256 GPUs and 128,000 cores to complete roughly 180 years worth of gameplay every day through reinforcement learning, which allowed the bots to develop advanced skills for the game. An open source gym for training AI with games was also released by the company.

In 2017, OpenAI announced that it had successfully trained its AI-powered robots to perform a task after watching it once in virtual reality. After showing a robot how to stack a series of colored blocks in a virtual reality simulation, it was then able to successfully mimic the actions. To accomplish this, OpenAI trained the robot in a simulated, virtual environment with nuances like lighting, shadows and backgrounds noise so that when in the real environment, it knew to filter out noise and focus on only important elements as a human brain would.

OpenAI also successfully taught AI bots to create their own language for communicating with each other in 2017. A paper was published on the topic which explained how the bots used reinforcement learning to accomplish simple goals through trial and error. After being given clues such as “Go to” or “Look at” by the researchers, the bots were then required to create their own machine language to communicate with each other.

The company’s latest commitment to Microsoft will now expand their access to resources to achieve even more impressive artificial intelligence feats.

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