Microsoft invests $1B with OpenAI to pursue AI for Azure

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI (left), and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft is investing $1 billion with OpenAI to develop AI technologies for Azure. (Microsoft)

Microsoft announced on Monday that it is investing $1 billon with San Francisco-based research firm OpenAI to develop large-scale AI solutions for Microsoft Azure.

The goal of the partnership is to accelerate breakthroughs in AI and power OpenAI’s efforts to create artificial general intelligence (AGI). Along the same line as humans, AGI enables computers to learn new skills and complete various tasks on their own. Currently, AI can learn specific tasks, but can't learn new problems on its own.

OpenAI, which has 100 employees, was launched in December of 2015. It was co-founded by Chairman and CTO Greg Brockman, chief scientist Ilya Sutskever and Elon Musk. OpenAI was formed as a counter-balance to large companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft, monopolizing AI for their own business purposes.

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“The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” said Open AI CEO Sam Altman, in a statement. “Our mission is to ensure that AGI technology benefits all of humanity, and we’re working with Microsoft to build the supercomputing foundation on which we’ll build AGI. We believe it’s crucial that AGI is deployed safely and securely and that its economic benefits are widely distributed. We are excited about how deeply Microsoft shares this vision.”

The two companies will support the development of artificial general intelligence (AGI) "with widely distributed economic benefits," according to a blog post by Brockman.

Microsoft and OpenAI will jointly build new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, and OpenAI will port its services to run on Azure. The improvements to the Azure platform will also help developers build the next generation of AI applications.

In turn, Microsoft will become OpenAI’s preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies. The goal of the partnership is to deliver on the promise of AGI.

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In his blog post, Brockman wrote that system building of AI currently involves a lot of manual engineering for each well-defined task.

"In contrast, an AGI will be a system capable of mastering a field of study to the world-expert level, and mastering more fields than any one human — like a tool which combines the skills of Curie, Turing, and Bach," according to Brockman's blog. "An AGI working on a problem would be able to see connections across disciplines that no human could. We want AGI to work with people to solve currently intractable multi-disciplinary problems, including global challenges such as climate change, affordable and high-quality healthcare, and personalized education. We think its impact should be to give everyone economic freedom to pursue what they find most fulfilling, creating new opportunities for all of our lives that are unimaginable today."

OpenAI’s mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity. Building AGI technologies requires a lot of capital for computational power, according to Brockman. Instead of building a product, which is outside of OpenAI's charter, OpenAI is licensing some of its pre-AGI technologies with Microsoft now being its preferred partner for commercializing them.

“AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time, and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, in a statement. “By bringing together OpenAI’s breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratize AI — while always keeping AI safety front and center — so everyone can benefit.”

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