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Crypto billionaire backs siblings building neural networks

Crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried has backed an AI venture led by siblings who used to be vice-presidents at OpenAI, a company founded by Elon Musk.

Dario and Daniela Amodei are researching ways to build effective neural networks while minimising the risk that their calculations will produce unpredictable results.

The general rule is the more powerful the system, the harder it is to explain its actions. That’s not exactly a good trend

Their venture is called Anthropic, which hired eleven of OpenAI’s team members in 2021. Bankman-Fried, chief executive of crypto exchange FTX Trading, has led its $580 million funding round which takes its haul to $704 million. He is renowned for his skill in crypto trading which has made him a $24 billion fortune. He plans to re-invest much of his fortune in social initiatives. 

Eric Schmidt, another investor, is a former Alphabet chief executive, deeply concerned about AI’s potential impact on current computer systems which could render encryption redundant. He is chief executive of Sandbox AQ, an Alphabet spinoff, which is out to develop AI encryption.

Jaan Tallinn played a big role in the development of Skype. He is co-founder of the Future of Life Institute.  The Center for Emerging Risk Research, dedicated to improving the quality of life, has made a separate investment.

Other investors include Jim McClave of Infotech, Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook and Bankman-Fried associates. The deal amounts to a rare example of ESG principles being established from the start of a VC opportunity.

Dario and Daniela Amodei are concerned that we are preparing to use large AI systems which are unpredictable, unreliable and opaque, as well as unbelievably quick.

The GPT-3 language system, for example, developed by OpenAI, produce prose in any style or any topic, occasionally appearing on blog posts

But it is difficult to find out the way GPT-3 works, or how the system can be tweaked. 

This could have serious ramifications if, say, a different AI system was put to work seeking legal precedents for judicial rulings. The only way to spot if AI is doing something wrong is if you spot it has done something wrong, or put bias into its solutions.

According to Crunchbase research: “The general rule is the more powerful the system, the harder it is to explain its actions. That’s not exactly a good trend.”

A research paper co-authored by Dario Amodei has argued that AI, in the wrong hands, could generate powerful computer viruses or profiles, and pre-emptively arrest, individuals who pose threats to an autocratic state. 

He believes AI could be immensely positive, but could become highly negative and Anthropic, a public benefit corporation, is researching ways to get the balance right. It wants to develop “reliable, interpretable and steerable” systems.

The potentially negative impact of AI deeply concerns Elon Musk, who co-founded non-profit Open AI in 2015 with Sam Altman,  a former president of Y Combinator, now OpenAI chief executive. 

Musk has stepped away from the venture, criticising OpenAI in 2020 for its decision to licence GPT-3 to Microsoft on an exclusive basis. 

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