The successful launch of recent artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard has a surprising connection to Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) and the fall of FTX.
- Since its launch on November 30, 2022, ChatGPT has become a runaway success, receiving $10 billion in investments from Microsoft.
- In just the past week, the software reached 100 million subscribers, opened up a $20-per-month subscription service, and has been implemented into Bing’s search engine.
- Google responded by scrambling and attempting to pull together a commercial alternative based on its preexisting experimental LamBDA AI. The final product was announced on Monday, February 6. Bard is Google’s propriety AI chatbot.
- An underrated part of the success story is just how Google’s AI program will involve collaboration with Anthropic, a startup created by former OpenAI researchers and funded in part by FTX and SBF as part of his philanthropic efforts.
Why It’s Important
Three months after the collapse of one of the largest crypto exchanges, the effects of FTX’s fall are still being felt.
SBF, a notable practitioner of “effective altruism,” poured $580 million into Series B venture capital into Anthropic to help fund the company’s work in AI safety—work done to ensure AI doesn’t pose a threat to human safety. SBF was reportedly interested in the company’s research building powerful and approach to ethical considerations. As Fortune noted in November, FTX’s precipitous collapse was a setback for investors eager to invest in safety considerations as AI grows more potent over time.
As Fortune’s Jeremy Kahn notes, the setback of FTX’s collapse could poison enthusiasm for effective altruism and AI safety research. FTX’s bankruptcy proceedings could also affect the company, as FT notes Anthropic’s assets could be flagged by creditors with recovering funds. Given its current $5 billion valuation and Google connections, it is unlikely to be dissolved or broken up.
“Some are wondering whether Bankman-Fried also used effective altruism’s utilitarian philosophy to rationalize business practices that were, at best unethical and possibly illegal … [Movement leaders have] urged those interested in the movement not to rationalize causing near-term harm for the purpose of doing longer-term good, although they did so in part on utilitarian grounds—that the negative publicity associated with the near term harm would ultimately do more damage the larger cause,” says Kahn.
Backing up a Bit
Google has a similar working relationship with Anthropic to what Microsoft has with OpenAI. The startup is given access to financial backing and cloud computing resources, while the parent company accesses its research and development. Anthropic has its own proprietary AI, Claude, although it is not related to Bard. Antropic’s focus as a company is largely on AI safety.
Alphabet saw enough in Antropic’s value that it recently paid $300 million to invest in a 10% stake in the startup. What it wants with the company is still being determined, although investing in a breakaway company from OpenAI could offer Google an edge in developing Bard further.
Anthropic announced in a statement that it would continue developing Claude separately using Google’s resources. As FT notes, Google may simply want to use Anthropic as a “tech supplier” in the ongoing “AI arm’s race,” mainly using the company to help increase Google’s cloud computing business