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Microsoft AI News: $1 Billion for Insanely Powerful AI

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Microsoft just announced it’s investing $1 billion into a quest to create insanely powerful artificial intelligence that “can do anything the human brain can do,” according to reporting by Cade Metz at The New York Times.

The $1 billion is going to OpenAI, a for-profit company (and former nonprofit) co-created by Elon Musk. OpenAI is dedicated to creating what is called “artificial general intelligence” or “AGI.” 

AGI refers to a hypothetical machine intelligence that can think as well or better than a human about any and every task. Put another way by reporting from Vox:

“Existing AI systems beat humans at lots of narrow tasks — chess, Go, Starcraft, image generation — and they’re catching up to humans at others, like translation and news reporting. 

But an artificial general intelligence would be one system with the capacity to surpass us at all of those things. 

Enthusiasts argue that it would enable centuries of technological advances to arrive, effectively, all at once — transforming medicine, food production, green technologies, and everything else in sight.”

Such a system would give Microsoft and OpenAI a kind of “AI operating system” that would power all manner of other narrower AI applications.

It’s a big dream, and one that may be unattainable. Says The Verge:

“Right now, researchers are able to create AI software that is superhuman in specific domains, like playing certain board games or analyzing medical scans, but these systems are unable to transfer that competency from one task to another. 

As Facebook AI chief Yann LeCun put it: when it comes to general intelligence, we can’t even build something as smart as a rat.”

As part of the deal, Microsoft will eventually become OpenAI’s sole computing power provider. 

Why This Matters

Even if AGI ends up being a pipe dream, this story matters. Why?

Because it shows the depth of commitment from major players like Microsoft to building an AI-first future.

It’s easy to get cynical about all the hype around AI. 

But, at the end of the day, certain forms of AI-powered technology are rapidly improving their ability to perform narrow tasks better than people. Major investments are pouring into AI-powered companies. And executives and industry leaders are working to understand the technology and its applications.

Will we develop AGI that does everything better than us?

That remains to be seen.

But you can bet the technology we’re already seeing is going to have a profound effect on your business, your work, and your life, transforming industries and livelihoods in the process.

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