On Saturday, Elon Musk shared an exchange between the artificial intelligence ChatGPT and itself. The conversation was surrounding the OpenAI company transferring from a non-profit to a for-profit entity. The ChatGPT came to the conclusion that if the for-profit entity had used the resources of the non-profit for the switch, it was “highly unethical and illegal.”
It appears that Musk and ChatGPT were not aware of all the information available. Documents looked at by TechCrunch reveal that the initial OpenAI non-profit kept a tight hold on its financial resources, amounting to millions of dollars, indicating that no of its funds were applied to creation of the company’s commercial affairs.
The intriguing aspect is where those funds went: to support experiments concerning Universal Basic Income in order to resolve the issues that OpenAI’s practices could be producing.
Sam Altman has multiple ties to businesses, nonprofits, and initiatives due to his role as co-founder of the startup accelerator Y Combinator and OpenAI, an organization initiated alongside Elon Musk.
He has invested in around twelve distinct fields ranging from nuclear fusion, supersonic aircraft, molecular diagnostics, and cryptocurrency, but his primary focus outside of these investments is centered around philanthropic organizations run by himself and his allies.
This family of nonprofit organizations shows how a small group of like-minded individual contributors can make use of their philanthropic activities to nurture their personal objectives, promote profitable agendas, and potentially hasten the altering of society.
A network of charitable organizations
It is not unfamiliar for tech business owners to have one or two charitable organizations so that they can certainly delegate their prosperity in the way they determine. But, Altman’s commercial and benevolent duties are more interconnected than most.
Altman has oversight over two not-for-profit organisations, namely OpenAI and OpenResearch, as well as a third charitable body, going unnamed previously, referred to as UBI Charitable, which has received his financial backing.
The objective of UBI Charitable is to explore and execute Universal Basic Income plans – the form of payments given with no conditions following them – which Altman and Musk think will be necessary as automation and AI progress becomes effective, in the same way as the advances being implemented by the two tech minds. As of now, it has already started to finance a minimum of two of such programs.
Tracing the linkages and financing between Altman’s companies and philanthropic organizations necessitates examining 2015.
In 2017, Altman set up OpenAI, a 501c3 organization formed with the assistance of Musk, Hoffman, and various others with the main goal of safely and openly taking on AI research. Additionally, he launched OpenResearch, a not-for-profit research laboratory from Y Combinator, which was intended to address tasks that needed a high-term timeline, and to solve abstract inquiries or make a new innovation Altman felt ought not to be held by one single organization.
Altman made it clear that the motivation behind this initiative was not to increase YC’s profits or ensure the success of their startups; instead, it was to better the planet in general. He phrased it as “for the benefit of the world,” referencing a tried and true saying.
He announced on his blog that he would initiate the process by contributing $10 million to the OpenResearch foundation, with the intention of raising additional funds later on.
Tax filings demonstrate that OpenResearch gathered a limited amount of $1 million from donations in 2016. Nevertheless, by the year 2019, they had amassed roughly $10 million in support. The sources of this funding were not mentioned. Overall, this organization has earned approximately $24.5 million since its birth. Altman gave a $5.2 million loan to OpenResearch in 2016, and this number has been expanding every year. By the close of 2021, records show that Altman had granted OpenResearch a loan of $14 million, though some of the debt was written off.
In 2016, it was asserted that OpenResearch had accomplished remarkable advances in a broad range of topics, such as scripting languages, simulating systems, physical/virtual user interfaces, online student-teacher communication, and virtual reality.
In the early stages, OpenResearch stayed out of the spotlight. This shifted with the emergence of the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
In March of 2020, when the virus had caused America to shut down, Altman sent out a tweet asking for volunteers to assist with the basic testing of potential treatments. This eventually lead to a connection with Benjamine Liu, a founder of TrialSpark who is also a computational biologist.
OpenResearch awarded TrialSpark with one million dollars to assist in erecting Project Covalence, a platform that offers support for COVID-19 tests in either community settings or people’s personal residences. According to the project’s webpage, “There is no time to spare. By working together, exchanging resources, and facilitiating the logistics, we can impede the propagation of COVID-19.”
One trial did occur, not for a treatment, but for a distant analysis for COVID antibodies. The summer 2020 experiment proved successful, with participants giving great samples and positive responses.
By the end of summer 2021, Project Covalence’s website had vanished. Subsequently, Altman launched a funding round in which he invested $156 million for Series C. This consequently caused TrialSpark’s value to skyrocket to $1 billion.
According to Patricia Illingworth, a philosophy professor at Northeastern University and author of Giving Now, a book about the ethics of philanthropy, when donors give money and then benefit from it, they are not necessarily acting in the public’s best interest. She brings up the example of parents donating to the schools their children attend, which carries an implication of self-interest.
TrialSpark released a statement saying that they put an end to Project Covalence due to the release of vaccines and therapies. They also stated that they did not have any apprehensions concerning OpenResearch’s involvement with Project Covalence or Sam’s investment in TrialSpark as they are two distinct matters.
Altman could not be contacted personally, however, a spokesperson representing OpenResearch released a declaration similar in content. They indicated, “The board at OpenResearch thought that Project Covalence would be helpful to people given the current circumstance concerning the pandemic. It is necessary to make a distinction between Project Covalence and TrialSpark.”
TrialSpark released a statement in July 2020 regarding Project Covalence, saying that it is a component of their own platform.
“Effects of Artificial Intelligence on Employment”
By the year 2020, OpenResearch had mainly stopped studying user interfaces and virtual reality. Apart from awarding a one-time grant to TrialSpark, OpenResearch’s resources and concentration would now be devoted to investigation of Universal Basic Income.
In his 2021 essay, Altman predicted that AI may be able to provide each American with an annual sum of $13,500 by 2031, and that it could expand much further if AI advances the economy. In 2020, he tweeted in favor of a $25 minimum wage, claiming that automation of certain jobs should be encouraged, as eventually a Universal Basic Income (UBI) will likely be needed.
He was willing to back up his words with funds from his charitable organization.
In 2021, Altman received financing from OpenAI which enabled him to give OpenResearch a $75,000 grant to do work centered around basic income. This work includes the design and appraising of UBI systems, as well as providing assistance to other organizations.
Given OpenAI’s success in gaining donations, it follows that Altman looked to them to finance his other endeavors. By 2018, OpenAI had gathered nearly $100 million to investigate Artificial Intelligence at gaming, instructing a flexible robot hand, setting up machine summits and broadening out its AI safety squad. However, they had not given out any external funds until then. In the same year, Musk resigned from the board saying that it might create conflicts with Tesla’s AI advances.
In 2019, the majority of the 125 staff working with OpenAI moved over to a new commercial partner of the same name that was aiming to monetize the newly created technologies, such as the GPT language model and the text-to-image converter. Microsoft put in $1 billion along with other financiers and venture capitalists.
Despite having $30 million still in their reserves, the original non-profit organization implemented their AI technologies and began making contributions to organizations like the ACLU, Black Girls Code, and Campaign Zero. These organizations attempt to stop police brutality.
In 2020, OpenAI unexpectedly donated $10 million, which constituted almost a third of its resources, to UBI Charitable, a newly established non-profit. There is no evidence of UBI Charitable having any kind of website, workers, or volunteers, and their address is identical to OpenResearch’s.
The state of California’s tax return shows that UBI Charitable plans to primarily give out grants to entities that are either running universal basic income plans or other approaches and initiatives that intend to share the profits of technological progress with many.
Chris Clark, Altman’s former colleague and mayor of Mountain View, serves as president and treasurer for UBI Charitable. Additionally, he is the director of OpenResearch and head of strategy at OpenAI. UBI Charitable gained $15 million in 2020 from a mysterious source, known only as a donor advised fund, and accrued an additional $5.3 million in 2021.
UBI Charitable began disbursing its funds almost immediately in 2020, with $8.3 million going to CitySquare, an anti-poverty charity located in Dallas, and another $8.2 million being granted to Heartland Alliance in Chicago, where a UBI pilot project known as Chicago Resilient Communities has been enacted. By the end of 2021, the most current year for which tax documents exist, UBI Charitable had approximately $15 million in accessible resources.
Resolving the issue that was created
The moral quandary of paying for AI, which may result in the loss of jobs, as well as supporting those whose jobs it may jeopardize, is undoubtedly a difficult one.
AI technology can offer two perspectives on Altman’s decisions. In response to the inquiry by TechCrunch, ChatGPT replied that an entrepreneur should be responsible for any damage to individuals’ jobs caused by the tool they created. By financially aiding another nonprofit that assists those who may be affected, they can accomplish this.
However, the AI system continued, suggesting that if a businessperson was only motivated by the desire to secure their own monetary wellbeing, rather than by sincere apprehension for people affected by the tool, then that could be regarded as suspicious and potentially wrong.
We certainly don’t want people to get their legal or ethical advice from an automated system, as highlighted by Illingworth’s statement that the wealthy should distribute their wealth quickly.
Altman is taking steps now so that enormous amounts of money are given to those who need it. It’s uncertain whether his strategy will be efficient in adapting to the changes AI will bring, and the money ChatGPT will make in the coming years.