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Recently, a prominent Silicon Valley drama took place -- the OpenAI CEO, Sam Altman, was fired by his board and rehired after pressure from Microsoft and OpenAI employees. Employees allegedly threatened to leave the company if Altman was not reinstated. Microsoft assisted with handling the crisis and returning Altman to his CEO role. I won't go into the details of the drama but I will provide you with a summary card below that covers my analysis of this saga.
As this unfolded on Twitter, gossip emerged that a specific OpenAI development had concerned the board. They allegedly believed Altman needed to be more truthful about the state of progress toward AGI (artificial general intelligence) within the company. This led to speculation and conspiracy theories on Twitter, as often happens with high-profile industry drama.
One theory pointed to OpenAI's advancements with an algorithm called Q*. Some suggested Q* allowed internal LLMs (large language models) to perform basic math, seemingly bringing OpenAI closer to more advanced AI. In this post, I'll explain what Q* is and why its advancements could theoretically bring AI systems closer to goals like AGI.
What is Q*?
In simple terms, Q* is like a GPS that learns over time. Usually, when there's traffic or an accident, your GPS doesn't know and tries to lead you to the usual route, which gets stuck. So, you wait for it to recalculate a new path fully. What if your GPS started remembering problems and closures so that next time, it already knows alternate routes? That's what Q* does.
Whenever Q* searches for solutions, like alternate directions, it remembers what it tried before. This guides future searches. So if something changes along a route, Q* doesn't restart like a GPS recalculating. It knows most of the road and can focus only on adjusting the tricky, different parts.
This reuse makes Q* get answers faster than restarting every time. It "learns" from experience, like you learning backroad ways around town. The more Q* is used, the better it adapts to typical area changes.
Here is a more technical explanation:
Q* is an influential algorithm in AI for search and pathfinding. Q* extends the A* search algorithm. It improves A* by reusing previous search efforts even as the environment changes. This makes it efficient for searches in dynamic environments. Like A*, Q* uses a heuristic function to guide its search toward the goal. It balances exploiting promising areas (the heuristic) with exploring new areas (like breadth-first search). Q* leverages experience from previous searches to create a reusable graph/tree of surveyed states.
This significantly speeds up future searches rather than starting fresh each time. As the environment changes, Q* updates its reusable structure to reflect changes rather than discarding it.
This allows reusing valid parts and only researching affected areas. Q* is famously used for robot path planning, manufacturing, and video games where environments frequently change. It allows agents to replan paths as needed efficiently.
In summary, Q* efficiently finds solutions in systems where the state space and operators change over time by reusing experience. It can discover solutions much faster than restarting the search from scratch.
So, in the context of the rumors about OpenAI, some hypothesize that advances leveraging Q* search techniques could allow AI and machine learning models to more rapidly explore complex spaces like mathematics. Rather than re-exploring basic rules from scratch, models might leverage prior search "experience" and heuristics to guide discovery. This could unlock new abilities and general skills.
However, whether OpenAI has made such advances leveraging Q* or algorithms like it is speculative. The details are vague, and rumors should be critically examined before conclusions are drawn. But Q* illustrates interesting AI capabilities applicable in various domains. And it hints at future systems that may learn and adapt more and more like humans.
The Cambridge Union and Hawking Fellowship committee recently announced their controversial decision to jointly award the 2023 Hawking Fellowship to OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT and DALL-E. While OpenAI is known for its advancements in AI, the award has sparked debate on whether the company truly embodies the values of the fellowship.
What the committee saw in OpenAI:
OpenAI has successfully shifted perceptions about what AI is capable of through innovations like ChatGPT. Their models represent significant progress in natural language processing.
The company has committed to releasing most of its open-source AI work and making products widely accessible.
OpenAI espouses responsible development of AI to benefit humanity, which aligns with the spirit of the Hawking Fellowship.
However, as a well-funded startup, OpenAI operates more like a tech company than an altruistic non-profit acting for the public good. Its mission to create and profit from increasingly capable AI systems takes precedence over caution. There are concerns about the potential dangers of advanced AI systems that could be misused.
Anyway, in case you didn't watch the above video, here is what Sam Altman's speech highlighted:
AI has extraordinary potential to improve lives if developed safely and its benefits distributed equitably.
OpenAI aims to create AI that benefits all humanity, avoiding the profit maximization incentives of big tech companies.
They are working to develop safeguards and practices to ensure robust AI systems are not misused accidentally or intentionally.
Democratizing access to AI models allows more people to benefit from and provide oversight on its development.
OpenAI is committed to value alignment, though defining whose values to align with poses challenges.
Another breakthrough beyond improving language models will likely be needed to reach advanced general intelligence.
While OpenAI is making impressive progress in AI, reasonable concerns remain about safety, ethics, and the company's priorities as it rapidly scales its systems. The Hawking Fellowship committee took a gamble in awarding OpenAI, which could pay off if they responsibly deliver on their mission. But only time will tell whether this controversial decision was the right one.
Q: What is OpenAI's corporate structure?
OpenAI started as a non-profit research organization in 2015. In 2019, they created a for-profit entity controlled by the non-profit to secure funding needed to develop advanced AI systems. The for-profit has a capped return for investors, with excess profits returning to the non-profit.
Q: Why did OpenAI change from a non-profit?
As a non-profit, OpenAI realized it could need more time, tens or hundreds of billions required to develop advanced AI systems. The for-profit model allows them to access capital while still pursuing their mission.
Q: How does the structure benefit OpenAI's mission?
The capped investor returns and non-profit governance let OpenAI focus on developing AI to benefit humanity rather than pursuing unlimited profits. The structure reinforces an incentive system aligned with their mission.
Q: Does OpenAI retain control of the for-profit entity?
Yes, the non-profit OpenAI controls the for-profit board and thus governs significant decisions about the development and deployment of AI systems.
Q: How does OpenAI use profits to benefit the public?
As a non-profit, any profits of the for-profit above the capped returns can be used by OpenAI for public benefit. This could include aligning AI with human values, distributing benefits equitably, and preparing society for AI impacts.
Q: What is Sam Altman's perspective on how universities need to adapt to AI?
Sam Altman believes that while specific curriculum content and educational tools will need to adapt to advances in AI, the core value of university education - developing skills like critical thinking, creativity, and learning how to learn across disciplines - will remain unchanged. Students must fully integrate AI technologies to stay competitive, but banning them out of fear would be counterproductive. Educators should focus on cultivating the underlying human capacities that enable transformative thinking, discovery, and problem-solving with whatever new tools emerge. The next generation may leapfrog older ones in productivity aided by AI, but real-world critical thinking abilities will still need honing. Universities need to modernize their mediums and content while staying grounded in developing the fundamental human skills that power innovation.
Q: What did Sam say about British approach to AI?
Sam Altman spoke positively about the emerging British approach to regulating and governing AI, portraying the UK as a model for thoughtful and nuanced policymaking. He admires the sensible balance the UK government is striking between safely oversighting AI systems while still enabling innovation. Altman highlighted the alignment across government, companies, and organizations in acknowledging the need for AI safety precautions and regulation. At the same time, the UK approach aims to avoid reactionary measures like banning AI development altogether. Altman sees excellent promise in constructive dialogues like the UK AI Summit to shape solutions on governing AI responsibly. He contrasted the reasonable, engaged UK approach to more polarized stances in other countries. Altman commended the UK for its leadership in pragmatically debating and formulating policies to ensure AI benefits society while mitigating risks.
Q: What does Sam think are the critical requirements of a startup founder?
Here are five essential requirements Sam Altman discussed for startup founders:
Determination - Persistence through challenges is critical to success as a founder. The willingness to grind over a long period is hugely important.
Long-term conviction - Successful founders deeply believe in their vision and are willing to be misunderstood long before achieving mainstream acceptance.
Problem obsession - Founders need an intense focus on solving a problem and commitment to keep pushing on it.
Communication abilities - Clear communication is vital for fundraising, recruitment, explaining the mission, and being an influential evangelist for the startup.
Comfort with ambiguity - Founders must operate amidst uncertainty and keep driving forward before formulas or models prove out.
Q: Why does Sam think the computed threshold needs to be high?
Here are the key points on why Sam Altman believes the computed threshold needs to be high for advanced AI systems requiring oversight:
Higher computing power is required to train models that reach capabilities, posing serious misuse risks.
Lower capability AI systems can provide valuable applications without the exact oversight needs.
If the computed threshold is too low, it could constrain beneficial innovation on smaller open-source models.
Altman hopes algorithmic progress can keep the dangerous capability threshold high despite hardware advances reducing compute costs.
If capabilities emerge at lower compute levels than expected, it would present challenges for governance.
But for now, he thinks truly concerning AI abilities will require large-scale models only accessible to significant players.
This makes it feasible to regulate and inspect those robust systems above a high compute threshold.
Allowing continued open access to lower capability systems balances openness and safety.
In summary, a high compute/capability bar enables oversight of risky AI while encouraging innovation on systems not reaching that bar.
Q: How does Sam think value alignment will work for making ethical AI?
Here are the key points on how Sam Altman believes value alignment will allow the development of ethical AI:
Part one is solving the technical problem of aligning AI goal systems with human values.
Part two is determining whose values should be aligned with - a significant challenge.
Having AI systems speak with many users could help represent collective moral preferences.
This collaborative process can define acceptable model behavior and resolve ethical tradeoffs.
However, safeguards are needed to prevent replicating biases that disenfranchise minority voices.
Global human rights frameworks should inform the integration of values.
Education of users on examining their own biases may be needed while eliciting perspectives.
The system can evolve as societal values change.
Altman believes aligning AI goals with the values of impacted people is an important starting point.
However, the process must ensure representative input and prevent codifying harmful biases. Ongoing collaboration will be essential.
Q: What does Sam say about the contemporary history of all technologies?
Sam Altman observed that there has been a moral panic regarding the negative consequences of every major new technology throughout history. People have reacted by wanting to ban or constrain these technologies out of fear of their impacts. However, Altman argues that without continued technological progress, the default state is decay in the quality of human life. He believes precedents show that societal structures and safeguards inevitably emerge to allow new technologies to be harnessed for human benefit over time.
Altman notes that prior generations created innovations, knowing future generations would benefit more from building on them. While acknowledging new technologies can have downsides, he contends the immense potential to improve lives outweighs the risks. Altman argues we must continue pursuing technology for social good while mitigating dangers through solutions crafted via societal consensus. He warns that abandoning innovation altogether due to risks would forego tremendous progress.
Q: What does Sam think about companies that rely on advertising for revenue, such as the social media mega-companies?
Sam Altman said that while not inherently unethical, the advertising-based business model often creates misaligned incentives between companies and users. He argued that when user attention and data become products to be exploited for revenue, it can lead companies down dangerous paths, prioritizing addiction and engagement over user well-being. Altman observed that many social media companies failed to implement adequate safeguards against harms like political radicalization and youth mental health issues that can emerge when systems are designed to maximize engagement above all else. However, he believes advertising-driven models could be made ethical if companies prioritized societal impact over profits. Altman feels AI developers should learn from the mistakes of ad-reliant social media companies by ensuring their systems are aligned to benefit society from the start.
Q: What does Sam think about open-source AI?
Sam Altman said he believes open-sourcing AI models are essential for transparency and democratization but should be done responsibly. He argued that sharing open-source AI has benefits in enabling public oversight and access. However, Altman cautioned that indiscriminately releasing all AI could be reckless, as large models should go through testing and review first to avoid irreversible mistakes. He feels there should be a balanced approach weighing openness and precaution based on an AI system's societal impact. Altman disagrees with both altogether banning open AI and entirely unfettered open sourcing. He believes current large language models are at a scale where open source access makes sense under a thoughtful framework, but more advanced systems will require oversight. Overall, Altman advocates for openness where feasible but in a measured way that manages risks.
Q: What is Sam's definition of consciousness?
When asked by an attendee, Sam Altman did not provide his definition of consciousness but referenced the Oxford Dictionary's "state of being aware of and responsive to one's surroundings." He discussed a hypothetical experiment to detect AI consciousness by training a model without exposure to the concept of consciousness and then seeing if it can understand and describe subjective experience anyway. Altman believes this could indicate a level of consciousness if the AI can discuss the concept without prior knowledge. However, he stated that OpenAI has no systems approaching consciousness and would inform the public if they believe they have achieved it. Overall, while not explicitly defining consciousness, Altman described an experimental approach to evaluating AI systems for potential signs of conscious awareness based on their ability to understand subjective experience despite having no training in the concept.
Q: What does Sam think about energy abundance affecting AI safety?
Sam Altman believes energy abundance leading to cheaper computing costs would not undermine AI safety precautions in the near term but could dramatically reshape the landscape in the long run. He argues that while extremely affordable energy would reduce one limitation on AI capabilities, hardware and chip supply chain constraints will remain bottlenecks for years. However, Altman acknowledges that abundant clean energy could eventually enable the training of models at unprecedented scales and rapidity, significantly accelerating the timeline for advancing AI systems to transformative levels. While he feels risks would still be predictable and manageable, plentiful energy could compress the progress trajectory enough to substantially impact the outlook for controlling super-advanced AI over the long term. In summary, Altman sees energy breakthroughs as not negating safety in the short term but potentially reshaping the advancement curve in the more distant future.
Oct 11 (Reuters) - OpenAI plans to substantially reduce API costs to expand developer access to its AI, contrasting with Twitter's price hikes under Elon Musk. However, Musk claims the increases are necessary to combat bots. Whereas OpenAI fosters an open AI community, Twitter wants to restrict its platform from automated misuse. Musk argues that free API access enables bot armies to manipulate Twitter, spreading spam and misinformation. Thus, he jacked up prices to deter bad actors.
However, many developers counter that the dramatic cost hike throws the baby out with the bathwater. Legitimate developers building helpful services are barred from the platform alongside problematic bots. A balanced approach is needed.
OpenAI shows that it can spur innovation while enacting safeguards against abuse. Measured controls on API usage allow broad access while targeting harmful bot activity. Though well-intentioned, Twitter's scorched earth policy risks damaging its ecosystem.
There are merits to Twitter's API crackdown on bots. But the severe impact on developers and lack of nuance raise questions. OpenAI offers a model of expanding API access to unleash new ideas while enacting oversight to prevent misuse. Ultimately, the AI company strikes a better balance for now.
At next month's developer conference, OpenAI will announce reduced pricing and new capabilities to entice more developers to utilize its artificial intelligence. The updates are part of OpenAI's strategy to expand beyond ChatGPT and make its technology indispensable across industries.
Headlining the new developer features will be a stateful API that remembers conversation context, dramatically lowering costs for certain applications. OpenAI will also unveil a vision API enabling AI analysis of images, similar to DALL-E 3 and the GPT-4V system internally powering ChatGPT's new "chat with images" functionality.
By enhancing affordability and versatility, OpenAI aims to accelerate integration of its natural language and computer vision innovations into third-party apps and services. The impending additions to its developer platform promise to be major steps toward making AI ubiquitous in software and bringing the technology's benefits to broader audiences. Have at it, developers!
About the Cover Image
Since my mission is to introduce you to AI topics and AI tools, I want to share how I generate the cover images often for my blog posts. Here is the prompt I gave ChatGPT Plus with DALL·3.
I am writing a blog post that I am sharing here. Make a cover image for it based on the core message: [content of this blog post]
Certainly, Mr. Kabir. I'll create a cover image for your blog post based on the core message. Here are the descriptions that I'll use to generate the images:
Photo: An overview of a cityscape with silhouettes of tall buildings, symbolizing the tech industry. Superimposed on the left is the OpenAI logo, shining brightly, representing its approach to API access. On the right, the Twitter logo casts a shadow, symbolizing its restrictive measures. A balance scale in the foreground has weights labeled "Innovation" and "Safeguard".
Illustration: A digital realm with binary code flowing. Two gates stand side by side. The left gate is wide open with the OpenAI logo above, allowing diverse developers (men and women of various descents) to enter, while filtering out malicious bots. The right gate, with the Twitter logo, is narrower, allowing fewer entities through, with both bots and developers looking dismayed outside.
Vector: A split screen showing two contrasting scenes. On the left, OpenAI's logo with a magnifying glass examining bots, suggesting scrutiny while allowing a stream of data. On the right, Twitter's logo with a barrier, blocking both bots and developers, indicating a more restricted approach.
Photo: A roundtable conference setting. On one side, representatives from OpenAI showcase a model labeled "Balanced Approach", with various tech devices displaying innovative applications. On the opposite side, Twitter representatives hold up a sign reading "No Bots", but the table also has empty seats, symbolizing the absence of many developers due to restrictions.
I'll now generate the images based on these descriptions.
Mr. Kabir, here are the cover images for your blog post based on the core message:
A cityscape showcasing the tech industry with OpenAI and Twitter logos representing their respective approaches and a balance scale in the foreground.
A digital realm illustration featuring two gates: OpenAI's gate allowing diverse developers and Twitter's more restrictive gate.
A split screen vector of two contrasting tech landscapes, emphasizing OpenAI's scrutiny and Twitter's barriers.
A conference setting with OpenAI representatives presenting a balanced approach and Twitter representatives showcasing their stance.
Of course, I chose one them as the cover. Now is this a super cool way of doing something like this, yes? Is the cover perfect? Maybe not but I can always ask for a more specific way to generate the cover directly, which is what I often do but this just shows you how far we have come with AI that we can add so much more to our writing without having the graphics design skill or time to develop cover art the old-fashion way. This is why there is no excuse today to not write blog posts about things you love.
With the rise of new Large Language Models (LLMs), especially in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the race to the top has never been more intense. The big tech giants - Google, Microsoft, and now Amazon - are at the forefront, controlling significant portions of the consumer LLM markets with heavy investments.
A recent headline reveals Amazon's latest investment strategy, shedding light on its ambitious plans. Amazon has agreed to invest up to $4 billion in the AI startup Anthropic. This strategic move highlights Amazon's growing interest in AI and its intention to compete head-to-head against other tech behemoths like Microsoft, Meta, Google, and Nvidia.
This substantial investment comes with the initial promise of $1.25 billion for a minority stake in Anthropic. This firm operates an AI-powered text-analyzing chatbot, similar to Google's Bard and Microsoft-backed OpenAI. With an option to increase its investment up to the entire $4 billion, Amazon's commitment to AI and the future of technology is evident.
Furthermore, reports earlier this year revealed that Anthropic, already having Google as an investor, aims to raise as much as $5 billion over the next two years. This ambition signals the high stakes and intense competition in the AI industry.
Google and Microsoft's Dominance
While Amazon's recent entry into heavy AI investments is making headlines, Google and Microsoft have long been dominant players in the AI and LLM markets. Google's vast array of services, from search to cloud computing, is powered by their cutting-edge AI technologies. Their investments in startups, research, and development have solidified their position as leaders in the field.
On the other hand, Microsoft has been leveraging its cloud computing services, Azure, combined with its AI capabilities to offer unparalleled solutions to consumers and businesses alike. Their partnership with OpenAI and investments in various AI startups reveal their vision for a future driven by artificial intelligence.
The Open Source Alternative Push by Meta
In the face of the dominance exerted by tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, other industry players opt for alternative strategies to make their mark. One such intriguing initiative is Meta, formerly known as Facebook. As the tech landscape becomes increasingly competitive, Meta is pushing the boundaries by championing the cause of open-source technologies.
Meta's open-source foray into LLM (Large Language Models) is evident in its dedication to the Llama platform. While most prominent tech companies tightly guard their AI technologies and models, considering them as proprietary assets, Meta's approach is refreshingly different and potentially disruptive.
Llama Platform: A Beacon of Open Source
As a platform, Llama is engineered to be at the forefront of open-source LLM models. By making advanced language models accessible to a broader audience, Meta aims to democratize AI and foster a collaborative environment where developers, researchers, and businesses can freely access, modify, and contribute to the technology.
This approach is not just philanthropic; it's strategic. Open-sourcing via Llama allows Meta to tap into the collective intelligence of the global developer and research community. Instead of relying solely on in-house talent, the company can benefit from the innovations and improvements contributed by external experts.
Implications for the AI Ecosystem
Meta's decision to open-source LLM models through Llama has several implications:
Innovation at Scale: With more minds working on the technology, innovation can accelerate dramatically. Challenges can be tackled collectively, leading to faster and more efficient solutions.
Leveling the Playing Field: By making state-of-the-art LLM models available to everyone, smaller companies, startups, and independent developers can access tools once the exclusive domain of tech giants.
Setting New Standards: As more organizations embrace the open-source models provided by Llama, it might set a new industry standard, pushing other companies to follow suit.
While the open-source initiative by Meta is commendable, it comes with challenges. Ensuring the quality of contributions, maintaining the security and integrity of the models, and managing the vast influx of modifications and updates from the global community are some of the hurdles that lie ahead.
However, if executed correctly, Meta's Llama platform could be a game-changer, ushering in a new era of collaboration, transparency, and shared progress in AI and LLM.
The Road Ahead
As big tech giants continue to pour substantial investments into AI and dominate vast swathes of the consumer LLM markets, consumers find themselves at a crossroads of potential benefits and pitfalls.
On the brighter side, the open-source movement, championed by platforms like Meta's Llama, offers hope. Open-source initiatives democratize access to cutting-edge technologies, allowing a broader spectrum of developers, startups, and businesses to innovate and create. For consumers, this means a richer ecosystem of applications, services, and products that harness the power of advanced AI. Consumers can expect faster innovations, tailored experiences, and groundbreaking solutions as more minds collaboratively contribute to and refine these models.
However, the shadow of monopolistic tendencies still looms large. Even in an open-source paradigm, the influence and resources of tech behemoths can overshadow smaller players, leading to an uneven playing field. While the open-source approach promotes collaboration and shared progress, ensuring that it doesn't become another arena where a few corporations dictate the rules is crucial. For consumers, this means being vigilant and supporting a diverse range of platforms and services, ensuring that competition remains alive and innovation continues to thrive.