Elon Musk-backed OpenAI to release text tool it called dangerous | Technology


OpenAI, the machine learning nonprofit co-founded by Elon Musk, has released its first commercial product: a rentable version of a text generation tool the organisation once deemed too dangerous to release.

Dubbed simply “the API”, the new service lets businesses directly access the most powerful version of GPT-3, OpenAI’s general purpose text generation AI.

The tool is already a more than capable writer. Feeding an earlier version of the opening line of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” – the system recognises the vaguely futuristic tone and the novelistic style, and continues with: “I was in my car on my way to a new job in Seattle. I put the gas in, put the key in, and then I let it run. I just imagined what the day would be like. A hundred years from now. In 2045, I was a teacher in some school in a poor part of rural China. I started with Chinese history and history of science.”

Now, OpenAI wants to put the same power to more commercial uses such as coding and data entry. For instance, if, rather than Orwell, the prompt is a list of the names of six companies and the stock tickers and foundation dates of two of them, the system will finish it by filling in the missing details for the other companies.

It will mark the first commercial uses of a technology which stunned the industry in February 2019 when OpenAI first revealed its progress in teaching a computer to read and write. The group was so impressed by the capability of its new creation that it was initially wary of publishing the full version, warning that it could be misused for ends the nonprofit had not foreseen.

“We need to perform experimentation to find out what they can and can’t do,” said Jack Clark, the group’s head of policy, at the time. “If you can’t anticipate all the abilities of a model, you have to prod it to see what it can do. There are many more people than us who are better at thinking what it can do maliciously.”

Now, that fear has lessened somewhat, with almost a year of GPT-2 being available to the public. Still, the company says: “The field’s pace of progress means that there are frequently surprising new applications of AI, both positive and negative.

“We will terminate API access for obviously harmful use-cases, such as harassment, spam, radicalisation, or astroturfing [masking who is behind a message]. But we also know we can’t anticipate all of the possible consequences of this technology, so we are launching today in a private beta [test version] rather than general availability.”

OpenAI was founded with a $1bn (£0.8bn) endowment in 2015, backed by Musk and others, “to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity”. Musk has since left the board, but remains as a donor.



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