Microsoft’s $1B Bet: “Most Important Technological Development in Human History”

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If you believe it’s important to dream big dreams, then you gotta love the expectations behind Microsoft’s decision to invest $1 billion with partner OpenAI: to achieve nothing short of “shape the trajectory of humanity.”

There’s been a fair amount of chit-chat about the Microsoft-OpenAI partnership to create AGI (artificial general intelligence). But largely overlooked in those discussions has been the incredibly ambitious vision of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.

In a Microsoft blog post describing the partnership and accompanying $1-billion multi-year investment by Microsoft in OpenAI, Altman revealed expectations as big and bold as you will ever encounter: “The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity.” 

It’s audacious, inspiring, breathtaking, and at least a little bit crazy.

But as Oracle founder Larry Ellison has often said, if people aren’t calling you crazy, you’re not innovating aggressively enough.


Satya Nadella and CEO Sam Altman (Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

To give you a more-complete perspective on how Altman hopes to bend the arc of humanity with the most-profound technological development of all time, here’s his full comment from the blog post:

‘The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,’ said Sam Altman, CEO, OpenAI. ‘Our mission is to ensure that AGI technology benefits all of humanity, and we’re working with Microsoft to build the supercomputing foundation on which we’ll build AGI. We believe it’s crucial that AGI is deployed safely and securely and that its economic benefits are widely distributed. We are excited about how deeply Microsoft shares this vision.’

In the realm of turning starry-eyed dreams into reality, Altman enjoyed enormous success as president of high-volume and high-quality accelerator Y Combinator. Earlier this year, Altman stepped down as president of Y Combinator in order to take over the CEO spot at Open AI, and he remains chairman at Y Combinator.

So Altman has reviewed and evaluated thousands of big dreams from tech entrepreneurs. He has established a stellar track record in separating viable dreams from phantasms. And in that context, if anyone has earned the right to frame a new partnership with Microsoft—including the $1 billion funding—in hyperbolic terms, Altman has.

On top of that, Altman’s vision had to win the full and unwavering support of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, a guy who also knows a thing or two about grand visions and the boldness required to write an unexpected future. Here’s a comment from Nadella in the blog post—and it’s interesting to note that the post featured Altman’s comment first, followed by this one from Nadella:

‘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,’ said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. ‘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.’

The partnership calls for Microsoft and OpenAI to jointly develop new Azure AI supercomputing technologies; for OpenAI to create versions of its services to run on Azure for the development of new AI and AGI technologies; and for Microsoft to become OpenAI’s “preferred partner [notice it does not say *exclusive*] for commercializing new AI technologies.”

Big dreams, indeed.

And another stunning additional example of why Microsoft is leading the enterprise-cloud revolution and has a lock on the #1 spot in my Cloud Wars Top 10 (please see Satya Nadella Admits: Microsoft Cloud Business Is Bigger than Amazon’s).


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