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Tech Leaders Pledge $1 Billion to Artificial Intelligence Research Nonprofit

by Devin Coldewey /
Image: Honda's latest version of the Asimo humanoid robot shakes hands during a presentation in Zaventem near Brussels
Honda's latest version of the Asimo humanoid robot shakes hands during a presentation in Zaventem near Brussels July 16, 2014. Honda introduced in Belgium an improved version of its Asimo humanoid robot that it says has enhanced intelligence and hand dexterity, and is able to run at a speed of some 9 kilometres per hour (5.6 miles per hour).Reuters file

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Several of the biggest and richest names in Silicon Valley have collectively put $1 billion behind a new artificial intelligence research organization called OpenAI.

"Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return," reads the introductory blog post by the newly established team.

Related: Why Facebook is Researching Artificial Intelligence

Several prominent investors and companies, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and investor Peter Thiel, donated to make the organization financially independent for the foreseeable future. Researchers will be encouraged to publish their work publicly and collaborate with others across institutional lines, as there will be no worrying about grants or competing government contracts.

"Deep learning" and human-like thinking will be the organization's research focus to begin with. The mission is not just to advance digital intelligence, but also to learn how to apply it ethically and effectively. That's of particular interest to Musk, who in the past has warned of the dangers of out-of-control robots.

Related: Elon Musk: Artificial Intelligence Could Be Worse Than Nukes

"It's hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society," the blog post says, "and it's equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly."

"We believe AI should be an extension of individual human wills and, in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as is possible safely."

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