Microsoft has announced a $1 billion investment in OpenAI, the artificial intelligence (AI) research company, associated with Elon Musk. The investment comes with a multi-year partnership to develop AI supercomputing technology on Azure. (Musk left OpenAI’s board in February 2018.
Under the partnership, OpenAI will port its services to Azure, and Microsoft will be its preferred partner for commercialising new services; potentially a significant coup for the company, given the capabilities of OpenAI’s 100-strong research team.
OpenAI, founded in 2015, was initially solely a non-profit. Earlier this year however it announced OpenAI LP, a new “capped-profit” company. The investment is OpenAI LP; the partnership is with the whole OpenAI entity, an OpenAi spokesperson confirmed with Computer Business Review.
The news comes five months after OpenAI created a powerful AI model, GPT-2, capable of generating intelligible text without explicit training. OpenAI declined to release the full model amid concerns over potential “malicious applications of the technology.”
Earlier this year, the non-profit’s research team also witnessed an AI they developed beat a world champion team at the the complex strategy game Dota 2.
Microsoft and OpenAI will focus on building a computational platform in Azure “of unprecedented scale”, the two said today.
This will train and run AI models; include hardware technologies that build on Microsoft’s supercomputing technology; and “adhere to the two companies’ shared principles on ethics and trust.”
“The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” said OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.
He added: “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.
“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 Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft.
“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.”
OpenAI said earlier this year, announcing the creation of its for-profit LP: “We’ve experienced firsthand that the most dramatic AI systems use the most computational power in addition to algorithmic innovations, and decided to scale much faster than we’d planned when starting OpenAI.
“We’ll need to invest billions of dollars in upcoming years into large-scale cloud compute, attracting and retaining talented people, and building AI supercomputers.”