On January 23rd tech megagiant Microsoft announced they would have a multiyear investment plan with one of the foremost artificial intelligence companies, OpenAI, a company founded with a billion dollar pledge by Y Combinator’s Sam Altman and Jessica Livinston, Elon Musk, Linkedin’s Reid Hoffman, and many others.
The collaboration between the two companies is not just an investment, though, with Microsoft providing their supercomputer, Azure, to handle all OpenAI services.
This is not the first time Microsoft has invested in OpenAI, though, with this being considered their third round of investment, the first one was a billion dollars in 2019 and the second 2 billion in 2021.
Microsoft has chosen not to disclose the price of their most recent investment, although many believe it was in the $10 billion range.
OpenAI ranks in as one of the top 3 AI labs currently, and have grown a massive amount of media attention from Github Copilot, Dall-E, and, most notably, ChatGPT. Copilot was a tool developed by OpenAI in partnership with Github that gave users suggestions on their code from requesting something normally. Dall-E does this as well, but for art. Just input “A panda holding a basket of pickles in the style of Van Gogh” and out comes an image never before made. And then there’s ChatGPT, the newest of the three and by far the most popular, you just request something literary related and out comes a fairly accurate answer. All of these programs have shown people the possibility of, in the near future, utilizing artificial intelligence to help/replace with doing tasks.
However, OpenAI’s programs use past resources on the internet for reference, and the question arises: is it okay to use these? Some argue that it is plagiarism since even though it is a different picture the artificial intelligence still is utilizing that image to shape this one, copying the mannerisms of the strokes and the entire structure of the image. The same goes with ChatGPT, the information had to come from somewhere, and so is it ethical that they are taking certain things out of a bunch of different articles and just mashing it together into one? This is a tough question and depends heavily on your morals. But the fact that we are even having this debate shows just how close we are to AI becoming a mainstream utility heavily used, and OpenAI is at the forefront of that. And a large reason that they are able to be at the forefront of that is due to the major amount of capital that Microsoft is siphoning into them.
But this investment from Microsoft brings into question at what cost? Is it only going to be accessible to the rich because once OpenAI has refined their equipment microsoft can strongarm them into raising the prices? Is Microsoft going to utilize the data from the utilities to improve the popularity of its products? Only time will tell, but I am very fearful for what could possibly become of OpenAI with Microsoft already having such a big grasp on it.