Some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names—including Elon Musk, who co-founded Tesla, PayPal, and SpaceX—committed $1 billion on Friday to launch OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research center “free from financial obligations” and therefore better able to “focus on a positive human impact.”
The team behind the project launched OpenAI.com to lay out their mission:
Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.
The investors in the San Francisco-based research organization include Musk, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, Jessica Livingston, Amazon, and YCombinator. That’s a marquee list of the American tech world.
“As a non-profit, our aim is to build value for everyone rather than shareholders,” the team, which includes research director Ilya Sutskever, wrote. “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. We’ll freely collaborate with others across many institutions and expect to work with companies to research and deploy new technologies.”
Musk has gone on record with his profound fears and criticism of artificial intelligence, calling it “our greatest existential threat” and something that requires “regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.”
In an interview following the launch of OpenAI, Musk explained how his new nonprofit was designed to help.
“I think the best defense against the misuse of AI is to empower as many people as possible to have AI,” he said. “If everyone has AI powers, then there’s not any one person or a small set of individuals who can have AI superpower.”