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AI safety: Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI co-founder unveils rival AI company

Ilya Sutskever, co-founder of OpenAI and one of the world’s most esteemed AI researchers, has launched a new start-up named Safe Superintelligence Inc. (SSI). This development comes just a month after Sutskever’s departure from OpenAI, following internal conflicts over AI safety strategies.

Founding Safe Superintelligence Inc. (SSI)

The Vision Behind SSI

Ilya Sutskever, who played a pivotal role in advancing AI safety at OpenAI, founded SSI with Daniel Gross, a former Y Combinator partner, and Daniel Levy, an ex-OpenAI engineer. The new company aims to tackle the pressing technical problem of building safe superintelligence—a form of AI that could surpass human cognitive abilities.

In a statement released on X (formerly Twitter), the founders emphasised SSI’s singular mission: “SSI is our mission, our name, and our entire product roadmap, because it is our sole focus. Our team, investors, and business model are all aligned to achieve SSI. We approach safety and capabilities in tandem, as technical problems to be solved through revolutionary engineering and scientific breakthroughs.”

The Departure from OpenAI

Sutskever’s departure from OpenAI followed a period of internal turbulence. In November, OpenAI’s board, including Sutskever at the time, made a controversial decision to oust CEO Sam Altman. The move was quickly reversed, leading to Altman’s reinstatement and Sutskever’s resignation in May. At his departure, Sutskever hinted at an exciting new project, which has now materialised as SSI.

Also read: “Unchecked AI could lead to human extinction,” OpenAI and Google DeepMind employees warn

SSI’s Unique Approach and Structure

For-Profit Entity with a Singular Focus

Unlike OpenAI, which began as a non-profit and later restructured to accommodate the vast sums needed for computing power, SSI is designed from the ground up as a for-profit entity. This structure aims to attract top talent dedicated solely to the development of safe superintelligence, free from the short-term commercial pressures that can compromise safety and ethical considerations.

Daniel Gross, co-founder of SSI, stated, “Out of all the problems we face, raising capital is not going to be one of them.”

SSI is already attracting significant interest, thanks to the founders’ credentials and the growing demand for safe AI solutions.

Dual Headquarters and Recruitment

SSI will operate with headquarters in both Palo Alto and Tel Aviv, where it is currently recruiting technical talent.

The company’s focus on AI safety comes at a time when concerns about the potential risks of superintelligent AI are becoming more pronounced.

Also read: OpenAI begins training of GPT-4 successor, forms safety board

In a 2023 blog post, Sutskever, writing with Jan Leike, predicted that AI with intelligence superior to humans could arrive within the decade, necessitating urgent research into ways to control and restrict it.

The AI Safety Movement and Industry Trends

Rise of AI Safety-Focused Spin-Offs

The launch of SSI underscores the ongoing tension within the AI community regarding safety protocols and ethical considerations.

Jan Leike, who co-led OpenAI’s Superalignment team with Sutskever, also left OpenAI and now heads a team at rival AI start-up Anthropic. This trend of AI safety-focused spin-offs highlights the urgent need for robust regulatory frameworks to manage the risks associated with advanced AI technologies.

Regulatory Needs and Global Trends

The rapid proliferation of AI companies like SSI and Anthropic necessitates comprehensive regulation to ensure responsible and ethical advancements in AI technology. Regulators worldwide are beginning to recognise this need.

Also read: Elon Musk threatens Apple device ban over OpenAI partnership

The European Union’s AI Act, for instance, aims to create a legal framework to manage AI risks. In the United States, there is growing bipartisan support for more stringent AI regulations to safeguard against potential misuse and ensure that AI development aligns with broader societal values.

Implications for the AI Industry

Significance of Sutskever’s Move

The announcement of SSI has garnered significant attention within the tech community. Sutskever’s reputation as a leading AI researcher and his instrumental role in OpenAI’s early successes lend substantial credibility to the new venture. This move also highlights the ongoing concerns about AI safety and governance within the rapidly evolving industry.

SSI’s Future and Industry Impact

As Sutskever and his team at SSI forge ahead, their singular focus on safe superintelligence aims to set new standards in AI development, prioritising safety and ethical considerations while advancing technological capabilities. This initiative represents a significant step forward in the quest to harness the power of AI responsibly and sustainably.

By maintaining a dedicated approach to safety, SSI hopes to influence the broader AI community and regulatory bodies to adopt more stringent safety protocols, ensuring that the development of superintelligent AI is aligned with the best interests of humanity.

Samuel Bolaji

Samuel Bolaji holds a Master of Letters in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He is an experienced researcher, multimedia journalist, writer, and Editor. He is currently the Editor of Arbiterz.

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