Eye On AI: Oh The Humanity — Everybody’s In A Rush To Reassure AI Development Will Help Us – Crunchbase News

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This column is a look back at the week that was in AI. Read the previous one here.

Of course the big AI news this week is Elon Musk’s lawsuit against OpenAI and its executives — including co-founder and CEO Sam Altman.

The lawsuit claims the defendants have breached OpenAI’s founding agreement to develop artificial general intelligence for the benefit of humanity. The suit claimed the AI giant has become nothing more than a subsidiary of Microsoft, working in secrecy and focusing on profit, and that it may have already achieved artificial general intelligence.

OpenAI has since fired back, posting a blog that claimed Musk wanted control of the company’s for-profit unit and to merge it with Tesla. In one posted email, Musk agrees that as the company gets closer to building AI, it should “start being less open” and “not share the science.”

However, in the interim — and surely unrelated — venture fund SVA posted a pledge for companies in the AI ecosystem to sign stating these companies “are committed to building AI that will contribute to a better future for humanity.”

In posting about the pledge, SVA’s Ron Conway said “we all share responsibility for building AI that improves lives & unlocks a better future for humanity.”

More than 300 people and companies signed the letter, including OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, Salesforce 1, Hugging Face and Scale AI.

Let’s put the timing of this letter aside (did we mention SVA is an investor in OpenAI?). The fact such a letter is deemed necessary in the first place is a big issue, but one brought on by the industry itself.

AI has an image problem and, despite all the money that’s gone to the sector, no one has invested much time in trying to solve it. From regulations, to copyright issues to the clear and very public nefarious misuses of the technology, the leaders in the industry — who love to  sign letters — have shown a stunning inability to get out in front of any of these problems they should have seen coming.

Even more trust issues were brought to the forefront last November when Altman was ousted from his own company. That mysterious saga — where it was said Altman was “not consistently (being) candid with the board” — and its disturbingly slow, quiet investigation likely still has a chilling effect on most people.

When an industry leader goes through that kind of tumult in the dark, trust is not usually built.

Even the Musk suit has now become a back-and-forth about trust, openness and what these companies are truly trying to accomplish.

AI may not have a money problem, but it does seem to have a trust issue. Signing a letter will not remedy that.

Things that caught our eye and other stuff:

  • It’s always interesting to look at all the different industries in which AI is being applied. Boston-based Overjet locked up a $53.2 million Series C led by March Capital at a $550 million valuation. The startup uses AI to help interpret X-rays and review dental insurance claims. Its platform can be used to detect, outline and quantify instances of oral disease — with millimeter-level precision. Founded in 2018, Overjet has now raised  approximately $133 million, per the company.
  • This round was reported on more than a week ago, but the company confirmed it last week and it’s big enough that it still catches our attention. Figure, a Sunnyvale, California-based company developing AI-enhanced robots that it hopes will be able to perform dangerous jobs and alleviate labor shortages, raised a massive $675 million round at a $2.6 billion valuation. The eye-catching part is its investors, which include the likes of Jeff BezosExplore Investments and Nvidia.
  • Staying with Bezos, his name popped up again this week on the report that Perplexity AI is nearing completion of a funding round that will give the AI search startup a unicorn valuation of around $1 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported the deal is being finalized and the new valuation. No new funding amount was disclosed. The valuation is a tremendous jump from just two months ago, when the company was valued at $520 million in a $73.6 million Series B led by IVP,  with participation from several other firms and strategics such as Nvidia and Bezos.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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