In 2019 OpenAIthe company he created ChatGptHe ran over 51 million dollars in the promising chips of a startup called Rain AI.
Rain AI chips would be – at least on paper – one hundred times more powerful than those currently produced by Nvidiathe American company that in 2023 – thanks to its chips designed for AI – exceeded the market valuation of one trillion dollars.
The interest of a company like OpenAI in higher-performance chips is legitimate. It takes enormous computing power – and colossal energy consumption – to offer millions of users tools like ChatGpt, which can express itself like a human, and Dall-E 3which instead can generate any image starting from a textual description.
we will have to monetize it somehow at some point; the compute costs are eye-watering
— Sam Altman (@sama) December 5, 2022
Despite having its back covered by a tech giant like Microsoftits main investor, OpenAI recently had to suspend new subscriptions to ChatGpt Plus for fear of not being able to offer an adequate service to already registered users, who enjoy numerous privileges unlike those who use the free version (ChatGpt 3.5).
“The increase in ChatGpt usage following DevDay has exceeded our capabilities and we want to ensure everyone has an optimal experience,” he wrote Sam Altman on the social network the lack of AI-specific chips is slowing the company’s growth.
Timeline One year of ChatGpt: the 36 key moments in the race to AI by Pier Luigi Pisa 30 November 2023
Rain AI is working on new chips called NPU (neurophormic processing unit) which would have been designed to replicate some functions of the human brain. The former CEO of Rain AI, Gordon Wilson, said that these chips aim to “give machines some of the capabilities we see in ourselves.” In practice, NPU chips are described as a neural network in analog format: they would be a physical set of components that replicate neurons and synapses, and not an abstraction of the latter.
The first Rain AI NPUs should be available from October 2024. Thanks to the investment of 51 million dollars in this technology, OpenAI will be among the first companies to benefit from it.
However, OpenAI’s agreement with Rain AI, brought to light only recently by Wired USA, is causing discussion. As highlighted by the US magazine, Sam Altman – CEO of OpenAI – invested one million dollars in Rain AI in 2018. A use of money which, according to some, would demonstrate how Altman’s private affairs have an influence on the company he runs.
They would have been right conflicts of interestsuch as the one concerning Rain AI’s new generation chips, which pushed the old OpenAI board to fire Sam Altman last November 17, only to then allow him to return to the company after just five days. And to take back the CEO seat.
The case The discovery of OpenAI: what is the Q* project that “puts humanity at risk” by Pier Luigi Pisa 23 November 2023
Three weeks after the “coup” at OpenAI, however, It is not yet clear why the board dismissed Altman.
Helen Toner, one of the members of the old OpenAI board, established in 2018, wrote in X that the board of directors simply carried out its role as supervisor of the company. And that the actions taken [la rimozione di Altman, nda] they had no intention – as assumed by many – to slow down OpenAI’s work, in particular the alleged steps forward towards breaking latest news, i.e. general artificial intelligence.
To be clear: our decision was about the board’s ability to effectively supervise the company, which was our role and responsibility. Though there has been speculation, we were not motivated by a desire to slow down OpenAI’s work.
— Helen Toner (@hlntnr) November 30, 2023
Sam Altman, as he is known, does not own shares in OpenAIa company which under his leadership has achieved an estimated market value of 86 billion dollars. But his investments in startups – for an estimated value of 500 million dollars – actually constitute a potential (and continuous) conflict of interest: the future that awaits us, in fact, will see AI – and in particular generative AI – applied to any product and sector.
According to the Crunchbase database, Altman has invested in at least 100 startups in the past few years. Altman, 38, was previously the president of Y Combinator, one of America’s most popular startup accelerators and certainly the best-known in Silicon Valley. This position has allowed him to establish himself as one of the most influential men in the world of innovative American entrepreneurship.