Microsoft today announced that it will exclusively license GPT-3, one of the most powerful language understanding models in the world, from AI startup OpenAI. In a blog post, Microsoft EVP Kevin Scott said that the new deal will allow Microsoft to leverage OpenAI’s technical innovations to develop and deliver AI solutions for customers, as well as create new solutions that harness the power of natural language generation.

“We see this as an incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology, enables new products, services and experiences, and increases the positive impact of AI at scale,” Scott wrote. “The scope of commercial and creative potential that can be unlocked through the GPT-3 model is profound, with genuinely novel capabilities — most of which we haven’t even imagined yet. Directly aiding human creativity and ingenuity in areas like writing and composition, describing and summarizing large blocks of long-form data (including code), converting natural language to another language — the possibilities are limited only by the ideas and scenarios that we bring to the table.”

The implications of the licensing agreement weren’t immediately clear, but Microsoft says that OpenAI will continue to offer GPT-3 and other models via its Azure-hosted API, launched in June. (To date, the API, which remains in beta, has received tens of thousands of applications, according to OpenAI.) Microsoft plans to leverage the capabilities of GPT-3 in its own products, services, and experiences and to continue to work with OpenAI to commercialize the firm’s AI research.

Roughly a year ago, Microsoft announced it would invest $1 billion in San Francisco-based OpenAI to jointly develop new technologies for Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and to “further extend” large-scale AI capabilities that “deliver on the promise” of artificial general intelligence (AGI). In exchange, OpenAI agreed to license some of its intellectual property to Microsoft, which the company would then package and sell to partners, and to train and run AI models on Azure as OpenAI worked to develop next-generation computing hardware.

In May during its Build 2020 developer conference, Microsoft unveiled what it calls the AI Supercomputer, an Azure-hosted, OpenAI-co-designed machine containing over 285,000 processor cores, 10,000 graphics cards, and 400 gigabits per second of connectivity for each graphics card server. Microsoft claims it’s the fifth most powerful machine in the world, compared with the TOP 500, a project that benchmarks and details the 500 top-performing supercomputers.

In the roughly three months since GPT-3 became publicly available, it continues to be the subject of fascination within the AI community and beyond. Portland State University computer science professor Melanie Mitchell found evidence that GPT-3 can make primitive analogies, and Columbia University’s Raphaël Millière asked GPT-3 to compose a response to the philosophical essays written about it. But as the U.S. presidential election nears, there’s growing concern among academics that tools like GPT-3 could be co-opted by malicious actors to foment discord by spreading misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies. In a paper published by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC), the coauthors find that GPT-3’s strength in generating “informational,” “influential” text could be leveraged to “radicalize individuals into violent far-right extremist ideologies and behaviors.”

OpenAI previously said it’s experimenting with safeguards at the API level including “toxicity filters” to limit harmful language from GPT-3. For instance, it hopes to deploy filters that pick up antisemitic content while still letting through neutral content talking about Judaism.


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