The artificial intelligence company that Elon Musk helped found is now selling the text-generation software it previously said was too dangerous to launch
OpenAI, the artificial intelligence research lab that counted Elon Musk as its founding co-chair, is commercializing a tool it unveiled last February that can generate text after being fed just a single sentence.
The tool is essentially a sophisticated text editor that can build on the words and sentences it’s fed to predict what comes next.
When trying the tool last year, The Guardian’s Alex Hern found that the system was able to match the style and language of the George Orwell novel “1984” as well as an article from The Guardian.
OpenAI previously said it wouldn’t open-source the software over concerns that the technology was too dangerous and would be misused.
That’s why OpenAI is releasing the tool, the company’s first commercial product, as an application programming interface (API) in a private beta rather than open-sourcing it. Reddit is among the first companies to join the private beta.
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.
OpenAI wrote in its blog post:
“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, radicalization, or astroturfing. 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 rather than general availability, building tools to help users better control the content of our API returns, and researching safety-relevant aspects of language technology (such as analyzing, mitigating, and intervening on harmful bias.)”
Even though OpenAI was founded as a non-profit, the company says it decided to launch a commercial product ensure it has enough funding to succeed in its goal of making sure that “artificial intelligence benefits everyone.”
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.