Two tech titans have launched a billion-dollar non-profit that they hope will keep the world safe from an artificial intelligence takeover.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator announced the launch of Open AI, a project to democratize technology and ensure that one one person or entity ever controls enough artificial intelligence to take over the world.
It’s a lofty premise, but one that takes its cue straight from a James Bond movie: every villain had a wicked plan to rule mankind. Musk and Altman believe a real-life Dr. Evil could someday bring the world to its knees.
Basically, Open AI is a research lab where a cadre of scientists work to create and advance digital intelligence and make that information available to everyone. The open source philosophy will serve as a balance to the private, for-profit model, in which technology is created in service to a few.
“As a non-profit, our aim is to build value for everyone rather than shareholders,” says the Open AI website. “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.”
In the past, Musk has made no secret of his anxiety over the threat artificial intelligence poses to humanity. Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak believes a takeover is certain. In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, Wozniak warned, “Computers are going to take over from humans, no question. If we build these devices to take care of everything for us, eventually they’ll think faster than us and they’ll get rid of the slow humans to run companies more efficiently.”
Musk, Wozniak, Stephen Hawking, along with other like-minded AI skeptics are part of the advocacy group Future of Life Institute. Last year, they drafted an open letter warning of the “potential pitfalls” of AI, and enumerated a list of ways to “maximize the societal benefit” instead.
Musk and Atman’s Open AI venture seems to dovetail from that list.
“The outcome of this venture is uncertain and the work is difficult, but we believe the goal and the structure are right,” the team members wrote. “We hope this is what matters most to the best in the field.”
Open AI is funded by Pay Pal co-founder Peter Thiel, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, author and Y Combinator co-founder Jessica Livingston, as well as Amazon AWS, Infosys and YC Research.