While Artificial Intelligence has taken the spotlight over the past year, technology that can act like human brains has been the focus of researchers, investors and technology executives in Silicon Valley and beyond for more than a decade.
Here are some of the people involved in the origins of the modern AI movement who have influenced the technology’s development.
Mr. Altman is the chief executive of OpenAI, the San Francisco AI lab that made the chatbot ChatGPT that went viral over the past year and ushered in recognition of the power of generative artificial intelligence. Mr. Altman helped start OpenAI after meeting with Elon Musk about the technology in 2015. At the time, Mr. Altman ran Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley startup incubator.
Mr. Amodei, an AI researcher who joined OpenAI early on, runs the AI start-up Anthropic. He was previously a researcher at Google and helped set OpenAI’s research direction, but left in 2021 after disagreements over the direction the company was taking. That year, he founded Anthropic, which is dedicated to creating secure AI systems.
Mr. Gates,a founder of Microsoft and for many years the richest man in the world, was long skeptical of how powerful AI could become. Then in August 2022, he got a demo of OpenAI’s GPT-4, the AI model behind ChatGPT. After seeing what GPT-4 could do, Mr. Gates an AI conversion. His support helped Microsoft move aggressively to capitalize on generative AI
Mr. Hassabis, a neuroscientist, is a founder of DeepMind, one of the most important labs in this wave of AI. He received financial support to create DeepMind from investor Peter Thiel and built a lab that produced AlphaGo, an AI software that shocked the world in 2016 when it beat the world’s best players at the board game Go. (Mr. Hassabis was an award-winning chess player as a teenager.) Google bought UK-based DeepMind in 2014, and Mr. Hassabis is one of the company’s top AI managers.
A professor at the University of Toronto, Mr. Hinton and two of his graduate students were responsible for neural networks, a key underlying technology in this wave of AI Neural networks captivated the tech industry, and Google quickly agreed to pay Mr. Hinton and his crew raised $44 million in 2012 to take them further, beating out Microsoft and Baidu, a Chinese technology company.
Mr. Hoffmana former PayPal executive who founded LinkedIn and became a venture capitalist, was — along with Mr. Musk and Mr. Thiel — part of a group that invested $1 billion in OpenAI.
Musk, who heads Tesla and founded SpaceX, helped establish OpenAI in 2015. He has long been concerned about the potential dangers of AI. At the time, he tried to position OpenAI, a non-profit organization, as a more ethical counterweight to other tech companies. Musk left OpenAI in 2018 after disagreements with Altman.
Mr. Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, led the company’s investment in OpenAI in 2019 and this year, putting $13 billion into the startup over that period. Microsoft has since devoted itself to AI, incorporating OpenAI’s technology into its Bing search engine and many of its other products.
Mr. Page, who co-founded Google with Sergey Brin, has long been a proponent of AI and its benefits. He pushed for Google’s acquisition of DeepMind in 2014. Mr. Page has a more optimistic view of AI than others, telling Silicon Valley executives that robots and humans will live harmoniously one day.
Thiel, a PayPal executive turned venture capitalist who made much of his fortune from an early investment in Facebook, was a key investor in early AI labs. He poured money into DeepMind and later OpenAI.
Mr. Yudkowsky, an Internet philosopher and self-taught AI researcher, helped seed much of the philosophical thinking surrounding the technology. He was a leader in a community that called themselves Rationalists or later years, effective altruists, and who believed in the power of AI but also worried that the technology could destroy people. Mr. Yudkowsky hosted an annual conference (funded by Mr. Thiel) on AI, where Mr. Hassabis met Mr. Thiel and secured his support for DeepMind.
Mr. Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has been pushing for AI for at least a decade. Realizing the power of the technology, he tried to buy DeepMind before Google made the winning bid. He then went on a hiring spree to bring AI talent to Facebook.
The reporting has contributed by Cade Metz, Karen Weise, Nico Grant and Mike Isaac.
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