How OpenAI Sold its Soul for $1 Billion
The company behind GPT-3 and Codex isn’t as open as it claims.
The best intentions can be corrupted when money gets in the way.
OpenAI was founded in 2015 as a non-profit company whose primary concern was to ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI) would be created safely and would benefit all humanity evenly.
“As a non-profit, our aim is to build value for everyone rather than shareholders.” Is it though?
In 2019, OpenAI became a for-profit company called OpenAI LP, controlled by a parent company called OpenAI Inc. The result was a “capped-profit” structure that would limit the return of investment at 100-fold the original sum. If you invested $10 million, at most you’d get $1 billion. Not exactly what I’d call capped.
A few months after the change, Microsoft injected $1 billion. OpenAI’s partnership with Microsoft was sealed on the grounds of allowing the latter to commercialize part of the tech, as we’ve seen happening with GPT-3 and Codex.
OpenAI, one of the most powerful forces leading humanity towards a (supposedly) better future is now subjugated by the money it needs to continue its quest. Can we trust them to keep their promise and maintain the focus of building AI for the betterment of humanity?
Money always has the upper hand
OpenAI was an AI research laboratory. But its ambitions were simply out of reach for the resources it had access to. Training GPT-3 cost them an estimated $12 million. Just the training. Where in the world would they get that amount of money if not from someone bigger that would eventually ask for something in return? When they realized they’d need investment, Microsoft was there waiting to provide cloud computing services in exchange for a license to commercialize their systems in obscure ways that weren’t disclosed at the time.
Karen Hao, the AI reporter at MIT Technology Review, conducted an investigation to answer some questions about OpenAI. In a brilliant article, she exposed OpenAI’s inconsistencies in their discourse. Why a company whose foundation is to ensure a better future for all decides that “in order to stay relevant” they suddenly need…