King of generative artificial intelligence for a year, OpenAI is threatened with extinction after the arrival of its boss, Sam Altman, triggered a major crisis amid fears about the potential dangers of AI.
By Monday evening, nearly 700 of the approximately 770 employees of the Californian start-up had signed the letter promising to leave if the board of directors refused to resign, according to several media outlets.
The board criticized Sam Altman for prioritizing the rapid development of OpenAI, creator of the ChatGPT interface, without taking the time to analyze the associated risks, US media reported.
For Brendan Dolan-Gavitt, professor of computer science at NYU Tandon University, this thesis is validated by the arrival of Emmett Shear, appointed to succeed Sam Altman. “He often expressed his concern about the safety of artificial intelligence,” recalls the academic.
“We got to this point because small risks were amplified by science fiction enthusiasts and sensationalist journalists,” he complained, in a column published by the site. The informationVinod Khosla, founder of private equity firm Khosla Ventures, a shareholder in OpenAI.
Among the threats posed by the development of generative AI is the possibility that the programs could be used for military purposes, disinformation, or become autonomous and attack humans.
“It’s time to focus on the risks of AI, but not to the point of slowing down progress and depriving us of its benefits,” argued Vinod Khosla.
The events of the last few days have highlighted the limits of the OpenAI model, which wanted to put under the control of a non-profit holding company a company on which financial actors have bet billions of dollars.
Administrators “had lost their sense of reality,” said Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies. “How can you remain a non-profit organization once you accept these amounts of people like Microsoft?”
The giant from Redmond, Washington has launched, according to various media, an envelope of ten billion dollars for its partnership with OpenAI, in particular offering it massive data processing capabilities to develop its models.
Microsoft as the winner
The sequence “highlights the fact that we can’t let companies self-regulate AI, while there are discrepancies within their own governance,” said X (ex-Twitter), artificial intelligence specialist Gary Marcus and entrepreneur
“Please do not give up on the AI Law, we need it more than ever”, he continued, referring to the text intended to regulate artificial intelligence and which is currently being discussed in the European Union.
The OpenAI schism “will accelerate a lot of things on the regulatory front,” warned Ryan Steelberg, CEO of Veritone, an AI data analytics company.
However, “this will not slow down the race for generative AI,” warns Carolina Milanesi. “These are simply boardroom spins that put Microsoft in a better position.”
Although the situation is far from frozen in OpenAI, the Windows creator already seems to be the big winner in this saga.
Unceremoniously, Microsoft picked up Sam Altman, as well as several former executives who chose to leave OpenAI.
According to Microsoft executive Miguel Fierro, CEO Satya Nadella has pledged to hire all OpenAI employees who decide to quit due to the administrators’ lack of departure.
The operating systems giant that became a remote (cloud) computing and AI behemoth would then have absorbed OpenAI’s driving forces without having to worry about regulatory approval.
“If Microsoft had tried to buy OpenAI, it would never have gotten the green light from the competition authorities,” considers Carolina Milanesi.
“Microsoft just made the cheapest acquisition ever,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of NYU’s Stern University Center for Business and Human Rights.
“My concern”, tempers the academic, “is that this will accelerate the race for AI”, led by private companies with a profit motive, “and people will forget that all this should be the subject of a public debate.
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