But it may ultimately become a question of balancing ambition with need. Is it better to gamble on breaking up big companies, or guarantee that new rules curb some of their behavior? That’s something that lawmakers are going to have to wrestle with.
Trading off trust for profit to build A.I.
When OpenAI was founded three years ago, it had a huge goal: to build artificial intelligence software that was as capable as the human brain. Its founders said that because it was a nonprofit with noble ambitions — it had $1 billion in funding from backers to pay its way — the public could trust it to build that so-called general artificial intelligence.
Only, $1 billion doesn’t go far with goals like that. Huge computing resources and big salaries to attract talent burn through cash. Actually, it turns out, some profits might be useful.
So, Wired reported, Open AI announced that it was changing its business model. To keep up with Facebook and Google, it created a OpenAI L.P., a company that can take money from investors that need to return a profit, like venture funds. That will make it easier to raise funds. Down the line, it might monetize some of the technology it develops. But the company decided to cap the returns that investors will see — to $100 for every dollar invested.
One way to think of that figure is that OpenAI deems a 100-times return to be an ethical margin on building a general A.I. — enough to make it a feasible endeavor, but not so much as to tar it with the Big Tech brush. That reasoning clearly holds if you inhabit Silicon Valley. But it will be interesting to see if that profit cap is enough to put everyone at ease.
What the web could look like in 30 years
On March 12, 1989, Tim Berners-Lee proposed an idea for linking digital files that his boss, Mike Sendall, called “vague but exciting.” It ultimately became the World Wide Web, and 30 years later we’re left with much to love — and hate — about its existence.
At an event at London’s Science Museum on Tuesday to mark the web’s passage into its fourth decade, Mr. Berners-Lee was asked what it might look like in another 30 years. Here’s what he said:
■ “It’s not, I think, for us to try and guess.”
■ “Look at what’s happened over the last 30 years. The web has changed really dramatically, and a lot of that we couldn’t have predicted.”