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With $1 Billion Investment, Microsoft Sets Sights on 'Artificial General Intelligence'

A $1 billion investment from Microsoft promises to turbocharge the efforts of research outfit OpenAI around artificial general intelligence (AGI).

Considered the holy grail of artificial intelligence (AI) research, AGI aims to enable machines to adapt and master a range of intellectual tasks, without having to rely on formalized training to do it. By contrast, today's AI systems are limited to a specific domain, whether it's gleaning facial features, detecting patterns in financial transactions or playing a game of chess.

OpenAI has been working on the challenge of achieving AGI since its founding in 2015. The significant investment from Microsoft, announced Monday, will help drive the development of next-generation solutions and platforms.

"We're partnering to develop a hardware and software platform within Microsoft Azure which will scale to AGI," wrote Greg Brockman, co-founder and CTO at OpenAI, in a blog post. "We'll jointly develop new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, and Microsoft will become our exclusive cloud provider -- so we'll be working hard together to further extend Microsoft Azure's capabilities in large-scale AI systems."

As part of the deal, Microsoft will become the exclusive provider of cloud computing infrastructure for OpenAI, and its "preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies," Microsoft said in its own statement announcing the deal.

Both Microsoft and OpenAI emphasized the importance of promoting advanced AI services and solutions that are "secure, trustworthy and ethical." Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, said the stakes are uniquely high as advanced AI solutions emerge.

"The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity," Altman said in a statement. "We believe it's crucial that AGI is deployed safely and securely and that its economic benefits are widely distributed."

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella echoed Altman's outlook. "AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world's most pressing challenges," he said. "By bringing together OpenAI's breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratize AI -- while always keeping AI safety front and center -- so everyone can benefit."

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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