Microsoft Invests $1 Billion in OpenAI to Kick Off Their Newly Exclusive Relationship

Microsoft announced in mid-July that it would be investing $1 billion in artificial intelligence research company OpenAI as part of its efforts to expand supercomputing AI technology for its cloud, according to Business Insider

“OpenAI and Microsoft’s vision is for Artificial General Intelligence to work with people to help solve currently intractable multi-disciplinary problems, including global challenges such as climate change, more personalized healthcare and education,” reads the press release announcing the partnership.

OpenAI is an Elon Musk company, founded by the Tesla CEO, Y Combinator chairman Sam Altman, Stripe’s former CTO Greg Brockman, and former Google research scientist Ilya Sutskever in December 2015 with a $1 billion endowment. Musk originally developed the company because he was concerned about the potentially dangerous trajectory of AI. 

He became more concerned with the conflict of interest that his holdings at OpenAI posed to his AI work at Tesla, so he left in 2018. 

OpenAI’s resume includes developing technology that helps computers understand language, train robots that can do tasks like housework, and even beat humans in the computer game “Dota 2.” 

Altman became the company’s CEO earlier this year, around the same time the company began issuing stock to employees and generating returns, thus moving away from its non-profit roots and joining the for-profit sector. The company claims “capped-profit” status, meaning “it will limit the amount of money it returns to investors and employees and use most of whatever it generates to fund its non-profit entity, which will continue to exist.”

The company’s partnership with Microsoft will lead to a few significant developments in the tech world. To develop and run its software, OpenAI will solely rely on the Microsoft Azure cloud, the two companies will work together to build new AI systems, and OpenAI software will likely offer integrations with the Azure cloud.

Perhaps most significantly, though, the two companies share like minds in the pursuit of Artificial General Intelligence, the sort of sci-fi technology that AI often brings to mind in which machines can learn and understand the way that humans can. 

“AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “By bringing together OpenAI’s breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratize AI – while always keeping AI safety front and center – so everyone can benefit.”

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