Open AI becomes for-profit

An interesting about-face for one of the emerging machine learning/AI organisations. Open AI, set up with funding from Elon Musk and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, is now becoming a for-profit company after all:

It calls itself a “capped-profit” company. That’s a term it coined to mean 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 non-profit entity will rule the company’s board with more board seats, and investors and employees have to sign a pledge acknowledging that the non-profit comes before their financial interests.

I recently covered Open AI’s “fake news machine”. As part of my reporting I spoke to several independent AI researchers who had a very dim view of the motives behind Open AI—pointing to the fact that the “research” released by the company has never been peer-reviewed. Open AI is designed, one researcher argued, purely with the intent of generating publicity.

As a non-profit billed as a discussion generator around the future of ethics in AI, publicity stunts are perhaps welcome. But a for-profit firm? I predict a closer watch on what OpenAI does from now on, with tougher scrutiny over what really constitutes a breakthrough.