There's nothing open or altruistic about the OpenAI of 2023.
Dolla Dolla Billions
In spite of being founded as a humanity-benefitting nonprofit, OpenAI now appears to be doing the opposite as it considers an investment that would make it worth nearly $30 billion, built on its arguably nefarious software.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, insiders say OpenAI is currently weighing an offer to sell a majority of its shares to venture capital firms that would ultimately put its value around $29 billion.
The WSJ notes that the deal would see the Thrive Capital and Founders Fund firms purchasing at least $300 million in OpenAI shares, and roughly doubling the company's valuation and making it one of the highest-valued startups in the world.
The OpenAI of today is a far cry from its altruistic, not-for-profit dreams from 2015, when Elon Musk co-founded it with several other Silicon Valley types. Most of those founders, including Musk, are no longer with the lab-turned-company.
After initial proclamations about building "safe" AI in its early years, OpenAI abruptly turned coat in 2019 when Y Combinator's Sam Altman, who was and remains the company's CEO, created a for-profit arm to attract investment. The gambit worked, with Microsoft investing a cool $1 billion in OpenAI later in 2019.
Along the road to for-profit status, however, OpenAI lost Musk, who openly stated just a month before announcements about the company's for-profit arm that he "didn't agree" with the direction it was headed.
In the ensuing years, OpenAI's powerful neural networks have gotten tons of press for their sophistication — though not all that press has been good. Indeed, the same year it went for-profit, the firm itself initially claimed that its text-generating GPT-2 algorithm was too dangerous for public consumption — but then went ahead and released it months later anyway.
In 2022, the company made further waves first with its next-level DALL-E2 image generator and then its ChatGPT software, which generates text so human-sounding that academics had a veritable freakout over students potentially using it to write their papers for them.
And at the end of the day, the fact that it went from a pro-social research project to an industry-changing behemoth in seven years is enough to give anyone pause.
That it may or may not end up releasing powerful AI into society — and likely replacing countless human workers — when its founders initially wanted to do the opposite is, frankly, not a great look.
More on OpenAI: In a Fresh Horror, ChatGPT Can Apply to Jobs Now