Monday 22 July 2019 3:04 pm

Microsoft invests $1bn in OpenAI to create artificial intelligence that can solve humanity's worst problems

Microsoft is set to pour $1bn (£800m) into OpenAI to develop general artificial intelligence, effectively by turning its Azure cloud into a supercomputer.

The pair have agreed a multi-year exclusive partnership to develop a supercomputer of “unprecedented scale” to train and run ever-more advanced AI software.

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AI relies on cloud computing’s scale to ingest millions, if not billions, of datasets such as text, images and video to address specific challenges in vision, natural language processing, translation and other areas.

Recent breakthroughs include Deep Mind’s Alpha Go AI, which was trained on 100,000 games of Go before beating the game’s world champion in 2017.

Facebook and Carnegie Mellon researchers who created Pluribus, an online AI designed to win poker games, recently retired the software for fear it could bankrupt online poker firms after becoming a world class player in just a few days.

However, Microsoft and OpenAI want to develop AI systems that are closer to so-called general AI (AGI) – software that is an expert in multiple fields – to tackle complex issues such as climate change and healthcare.

“The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” OpenAi chief executive Sam Altman said.

“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.”

Microsoft boss Satya Nadella added: “By bringing together OpenAI’s breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratise AI – while always keeping AI safety front and centre – so everyone can benefit.”

Many lauded tech entrepreneurs and scientific visionaries have warned against the development of general AI, saying it could be catastrophic for humanity.

Tesla and Space X CEO Elon Musk has compared AI to “summoning the devil” and has said autonomous machines could unleash “weapons of terror”.

Meanwhile late mathematician Stephen Hawking predicted that general AI could “spell the end of the human race” back in 2014.

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“We believe it’s crucial that AGI is deployed safely and securely and that its economic benefits are widely distributed,” OpenAI’s Altman said.

“We are excited about how deeply Microsoft shares this vision.”

Main image credit: Getty