Documents Reveal Elon Musk’s Huge Donation to OpenAI Research

The Musk Foundation has been supportive of A.I. research.

Elon Musk is linked to a large donation of $10 million to OpenAI, new documents revealed Wednesday show, illuminating the extent of the tech entrepreneur’s funding to aid research into advanced artificial intelligence. Musk, who co-founded the firm but left its board last year, has regularly warned about the dangers of super-smart machines enslaving humans if not properly regulated.

The Guardian report reveals how Musk’s private charitable foundation, the Musk Foundation, has donated over $54 million over the past 15 years to causes focused on renewable energy, space exploration and more. Musk himself pledged $1 billion to start OpenAI in 2015. The following year, the foundation donated $10 million to YC.org, a mysterious organization run by OpenAI’s other co-founder Sam Altman with a mission of “making grants to other 501(c)3 initiatives and activities that are trying to solve the world’s problems.” The majority of YC.org’s revenue and funding came from the foundation, and later in the year, YC.org gave $10 million to OpenAI. The A.I. firm had yet to receive its non-profit status from the IRS at that time, ruling out a direct charity donation.

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Musk has regularly warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence. In July 2017, he told over 30 state governors at a meeting in Rhode Island that A.I. posed a “fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.” In November of that year, he warned that governments have “got to regulate AI/robotics like we do food, drugs, aircraft & cars.” So concerned is he about these risks, he’s set up Neuralink to develop a brain-computer interface that could help foster a symbiotic relationship between humans and machines.

Musk stepped down from the board in February 2018. The organization wrote that “Musk will depart the OpenAI Board but will continue to donate and advise the organization,” and that “as Tesla continues to become more focused on A.I., this will eliminate a potential future conflict for Elon.” He has remained supportive of the firm since stepping down, congratulating the team after it beat a team of humans playing the video game Dota 2 in August 2018.

OpenAI is gradually expanding, with plans to start teaching a team of scholars about deep learning research as part of a three-month training program, starting February 1.

With Musk stating just two months ago that he wants to “ensure that the future constitutes the sum of the will of humanity” through brain-A.I. links, the research could prove all the more important in the coming years.