The Real Story of OpenAI

Ilsa Z.
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ChatGPT's cutting-edge AI technology is taking the digital world by storm. Along with programs like DALL-E 2 and Stable Diffusion, these software are examples of generative AI, which means that they can create their own content (whether text or images) from the massive database they've been trained on.

Although generative AI technology has been recently kept under close wraps at big tech companies like Google, ChatGPT was the first free, open-source program of its kind that really made it big. Three months before its release, Meta had already come out with a similar program named Blenderbot, but it hardly caught any attention. Ever since Microsoft invested billions of dollars into funding OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, its progress has only accelerated.

Just one month ago, OpenAI came out with GPT-4, one of the most powerful AI chatbots we’ve seen so far, and the possibilities of AI tech are yet to be fully realised.

How it Started

OpenAI is an AI research lab based in San Francisco, which began operations in 2015. Initially, it was a nonprofit aimed at building artificial general intelligence, or AGI, of which ChatGPT is an example. The company's aim was to fight back against a tech monopoly in the future, where giants like Google have sole control over the use of AI. By contrast, OpenAI wanted to build AI tech that was transparent and open-source, for the public's benefit.

The company received a hefty amount of funding, from donors including Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Sam Altman. $1 billion went into helping the company get started, and it was soon in full operation.

Soon enough, the computing power and financial costs required to pull off the company's vision were greater than expected. In 2019, OpenAI became a for-profit, and this is also when Altman became CEO, accepting a $1 billion donation from Microsoft.

The Impact of AI on the Workforce

Now that a few months have elapsed since ChatGPT was released, the program has proven itself to be indispensable for helping people work faster. By relegating some menial work to AI, employees can focus more on their creative output, vastly increasing efficiency.

Companies like Amazon have already introduced ChatGPT into their workflow, particularly with responding to customer service questions, writing code, and creating troubleshooting guides. However, one area in which the software did fall short was in writing an “epic rap battle,” likely because it required greater cognitive ability.

Because of AI's endless possibilities, many of which are yet to be explored, many companies have kept their use of ChatGPT under wraps. One of Amazon's attorneys discouraged the other employees from entering confidential information into ChatGPT. And considering Microsoft's goal to make a “multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment” in the software, it's likely that AI tech is just getting started.

Elon Musk on the Dangers of AI

Although Elon Musk was a key investor as well as a co-founder of OpenAI, he walked away from the company in 2018. This is likely because he butted heads with the other founders about how to run the company, including Sam Altman, the current CEO of OpenAI. Now, Musk plans to launch his own AI startup, but he also has plenty to say about the technology itself.

Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, he said, “One of the biggest risks to the future of civilization is AI." He also stressed its possibility for “great danger”. Although we've long had the technological abilities to create AI chatbots and other software, the creation of ChatGPT was the first time this software was presented in such an accessible form. Musk also emphasised that AI tech needed to be regulated, to slow down its development to a more manageable pace.

ChatGPT's invention has also led to a fierce battle between two tech giants, Google and Microsoft. While the latter has invested heavily into the software, Google plans on coming out with its own program with a similar function, called Bard, which is currently in its beta stages.

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