The History of OpenAI

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OpenAI is an AI research lab with a unique mission: to promote and develop AI that is friendly to humanity. Yes, that's right. Friendly. No robot revolutions here...yet.

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Despite being only 8 years old, OpenAI has achieved a hell of a lot. Most of us were still reading books about farmyard animals at that age. But OpenAI learned how to build an AI to do it for them.

Founded in 2015 by a group of tech luminaries, including Elon Musk and Sam Altman, the company started with the goal of advancing AI in a way that benefits everyone.

The team behind OpenAI includes some of the brightest minds in the field, such as Ilya Sutskever, Greg Brockman, and Andrej Karpathy. To support their cutting-edge research, OpenAI uses an Azure-based supercomputing platform from Microsoft.

But where did they come from, and where are they going? Let's find out. Starting with:

2015

In the fateful month of December 2015, a group of tech titans including Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Reid Hoffman, Jessica Livingston, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Infosys, and YC Research banded together to form OpenAI.

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With a jaw-dropping pledge of over $1 billion to the venture, the organisation made a bold statement about its commitment to advancing the field of AI in a way that benefits humanity as a whole.

Not content to keep their research and patents locked away, OpenAI declared its intention to freely collaborate with other institutions and researchers by making their work open to the public.

2016

Back in 2016, OpenAI was paying corporate-level salaries instead of the usual nonprofit-level salaries.

However, this didn't stop top AI researchers from flocking to the organization, drawn in by OpenAI's potential and mission to develop AI in a safe and friendly manner. Microsoft's Peter Lee even claimed that the cost of a top AI researcher was more than that of a top NFL quarterback prospect.

One Google employee even ditched the search giant to join OpenAI because of the strong group of people and the organisation's mission. OpenAI co-founder Wojciech Zaremba was so invested in the cause that he turned down offers of two to three times his market value just to join the team.

In 2016, OpenAI released "OpenAI Gym," a platform for reinforcement learning research, followed by the unveiling of "Universe" in December, which allows for the measuring and training of an AI's general intelligence across various games, websites, and applications.

2017

In 2017, a whopping quarter of OpenAI's functional expenses were dedicated to cloud computing, costing them $7.9 million. In contrast, DeepMind's total expenses that same year reached a staggering $442 million.

2018

Over the next two years, OpenAI shifted its focus towards more comprehensive research and development in AI.

In 2018, the organisation unveiled a research paper titled "Improving Language Understanding by Generative Pre-Training," which introduced the idea of Generative Pre-trained Transformers (GPTs).

These neural networks modelled after the structure and function of the human brain, were trained on vast amounts of human-generated text and could carry out various functions such as generating and answering questions.

During the summer of 2018, the training of OpenAI's Dota 2 bots alone necessitated renting 128,000 CPUs and 256 GPUs from Google for several weeks.

In that same year, Elon Musk stepped down from his board seat, stating that he saw a "potential future conflict [of interest]" with his position as CEO of Tesla because of Tesla's AI development for self-driving cars.

According to Sam Altman, Musk believed that OpenAI had fallen behind other players like Google and suggested that he take over OpenAI. However, the board refused, and Musk subsequently left OpenAI. Despite claiming to continue as a donor, Musk made no donations after his departure.

2019

On Twitter, the billionaire stated that Tesla and OpenAI were competing for the same employees and clarified that he had not been involved with the company for "over a year."

In 2019, OpenAI underwent a transition from a non-profit to a "capped" for-profit model, with the profit being capped at 100 times any investment made. OpenAI LP, under this model, can legally attract investment from venture funds and grant employees stakes in the company.

As part of this shift, OpenAI distributed equity to its employees and formed a partnership with Microsoft, with the latter investing $1 billion in the company.

OpenAI also announced its intention to license its technologies for commercial use. However, some researchers have criticized OpenAI LP's switch to for-profit status, arguing that it goes against the company's claim of democratizing AI.

2020

In 2020, OpenAI unveiled GPT-3, a language model trained on massive internet datasets. Its primary purpose is to answer questions in natural language, but it can also generate coherent text on the fly and translate between languages.

Additionally, OpenAI revealed that its first commercial product would centre around an API called "the API", which is closely related to GPT-3

2021

OpenAI unveiled DALL-E in 2021, which is a sophisticated deep-learning model capable of generating digital images based on natural language descriptions.

2022

In December of 2022, OpenAI made headlines when it released a free preview of its latest AI chatbot, ChatGPT, which is based on the GPT-3.5 architecture.

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The preview was a huge success, with over a million signups in the first five days, according to OpenAI. Additionally, unnamed sources cited by Reuters in the same month reported that OpenAI was projecting revenues of $200 million in 2023 and $1 billion in 2024.

2023

As of January 2023, OpenAI was reportedly in discussions for funding that would value the company at $29 billion, twice its 2021 valuation.

On January 23, 2023, Microsoft announced a new $10 billion investment in OpenAI over several years. According to rumours, Microsoft may receive 75% of OpenAI's profits until it recoups its investment and a 49% stake in the company.

On February 7, 2023, Microsoft announced that it is incorporating AI technology based on the same foundation as ChatGPT into Microsoft Bing, Edge, Microsoft 365, and other products.

On March 3, 2023, Reid Hoffman resigned from his board seat at OpenAI due to potential conflicts of interest with his investments in AI technology companies through Greylock Partners and his role as the co-founder of the AI technology startup Inflection AI. He remained on the board of Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI.

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OpenAI's GPT-4, released in March 2023, represented a significant leap forward in AI language models and was highly anticipated by many in the field. The API for GPT-4 had a waitlist, and it was also a feature of the ChatGPT Plus service.

In April 2023, OpenAI announced a major investment from PwC, with the consulting firm committing $1 billion to the company and planning to use GPT-4 and the Microsoft Azure OpenAI service.

Today, OpenAI continues to be at the forefront of AI research, with a growing team of over 100 researchers and engineers working on a variety of projects. The lab's work in natural language processing, computer vision, robotics, and other areas is helping to push the boundaries of what's possible with AI.

OpenAI's partnerships with companies like Microsoft and PwC, as well as its success in launching new AI products like ChatGPT and GPT-4, suggest that the company is well-positioned to continue driving innovation in the field of artificial intelligence in the years to come.

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