OpenAI Has Emerged as a Leading Pioneer on the Virtual Frontier 

ChatGPT, the newly released online instrument that instantaneously composes screenplays, writes poetry and performs virtual standup comedy has seized the Internet, made possible by OpenAI. 

Student Commentary

By Bronte Delmonico / Matthew staff || Edited by Alexandra Nava-Baltimore 

OpenAI is causing tidal waves in the ocean of artificial intelligence. Courtesy of steamXO on Flickr

OpenAI is causing tidal waves in the ocean of artificial intelligence. Courtesy of steamXO on Flickr

The Digital Age heralds a new Messiah, and its name is ChatGPT This newly released online instrument that instantaneously composes screenplays, writes poetry and performs virtual standup comedy in an eerily human way has seized the Internet. The culprit responsible for this day of reckoning is none other than OpenAI

The Beginning 

OpenAI was founded in December of 2015 by a handful of tech luminaries including Elon Musk, Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever and John Schulman, the San Francisco-based lab constructs artificial general intelligence, or AGI, which is software designed to imitate and resemble humans. 

The organization’s primary mission is “to ensure that artificial intelligence benefits all of humanity,” which feels both as daunting as it does compelling. 

The founding stars of the Silicon Valley hall of fame collectively pledged $1 billion to combat a future in which tech giants, like Google, master the realm of AI technology and gatekeep its advantages. Beginning as a nonprofit, OpenAI claimed it would freely collaborate with other researchers and associations to ensure its patents and exploration remain open to the public. 

It would develop its AI products using massive quantities of data and potent neural networks, using software allegedly based on neurons in the human brain. However, it proved to be a challenge to operate the company as a nonprofit due to the demanding computing power and compensation costs. For instance, one of the beginning OpenAI employees received a salary of $1.9 million, according to 2016 tax papers, released by ProPublica 

By shooting for the moon OpenAI landed among the stars. In 2019, the organization transitioned into a for-profit company, OpenAI LP, adopting a ‘capped-profit’ structure that restricts investor returns to a specific multiple of their initial investment. The organization also accepted a $1 billion donation from Microsoft, which agreed to license and commercialize some of OpenAI’s developed technology. 

As of now, OpenAI LP is operated by the board of the OpenAI nonprofit, consisting of OpenAI LP employees Greg Brockman (Chairman & President), Ilya Sutskever (Chief Scientist) and Sam Altman (CEO). Notable non-employees include Adam D’Angelo, Will Hurd, Tasha McCauley, Helen Toner and Shivon Zilis. 

Though Elon Musk resigned from the board in 2018, citing conflict in positional roles of SpaceX and Tesla, he has remained an avid donor. 

The Evolution 

OpenAI first attempted to create a system that could comprehend and interpret language by using vast amounts of available online material as a learning resource, according to The Washington Post. 

One of the organization’s earliest breakthroughs was the development of OpenAI Gym, an open-source toolkit for developing and examining reinforcement learning algorithms. 

In 2020, OpenAI introduced GPT-3, a language model trained on large internet datasets and capable of generating human-like passages of text on demand. The tool has since been employed for various applications and uses, from chatbots and virtual assistants to content creation and language translation. 

The organization then developed Codex, a tool that assists computer programmers in writing code more quickly, in an effort to duplicate the success of GPT-3. Codex currently powers GitHub’s Co-Pilot, a freely accessible application that charges a monthly fee to convert human instructions into computer code. 

Only a year later, in January 2021, by training GPT-3 to recognize correlations between texts and images, the organization unveiled DALL-E (a clever tribute to artist Salvador Dali and Pixar’s WALL-E), a model that can generate digital images from written descriptions. DALL-E 2, new and improved, followed not far behind. 

DALL-E system generated mage. Courtesy of albyantoniazzi on Flickr. 

DALL-E 2 challenged the internet to devise absurd and complex prompts to be rewarded with photorealistic images. For instance, a prompt could be requesting a small frog in a red bowtie riding a unicycle. While the public may use the technology for a fee, many companies have paid to incorporate the software into their own apps. 

In November of 2022, OpenAI launched ChatGPT, an AI chatbot revised from GPT-3.5. Finetuned from its earlier text-generators, the chatbot enchanted the public with its fascinating yet spooky humanlike composition. The chatbot instantly produces accords of the Renaissance, composes screenplays within seconds and writes essays and poetry on command. 

On February 1, OpenAI announced it would offer a premium version of the program for $20 per month called ChatGPT Plus, though the free version remains. 

The Future 

The release of ChatGPT has felt like being baptized into the future, pushing OpenAI to the forefront of advanced technology, specifically for GAI. Though it may appear to be doomsday for professions such as journalists and screenwriters and an educator’s worst nightmare, according to The Washington Post the advances aren’t as groundbreaking as we might think. 

Big Tech pioneers such as Google and Meta have been developing similar programs, releasing small previews and continuously workshopping on potential issues. However, according to a report in The New York Times, Google hopes to ignite its process to open the products to the public, and has just recently announced it would release its version of a chatbot, called Bard, soon. 

Microsoft is predicted to install an updated version of ChatGPT, called GPT-4 into its search engine, Bing, in an attempt to eclipse Google.   

Despite its appraisal, OpenAI must confront lofty challenges, such as mending its product’s flagrant issues of bias, accuracy and harm. Chat GPT has gotten simple facts incorrect, generated inappropriate and offensive responses and have sent schools running for in person paper-exams once again.  

When asked about the ethos of OpenAI staying open, CEO Sam Altman told Forbes, “Other research labs don’t do it for other reasons; there are some people who fear it’s unsafe. But I really believe we need society to get a feel for this, to wrestle with it, to see the benefits, to understand the downsides. So I think the most important thing we do is to put these things out there so the world can start to understand what’s coming.” 

The organization has been vocal about the potential risks associated with advanced artificial intelligence, and has put prominence on developing AI systems that are aligned with human values.