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2023-11-28 10:31 AM

AI Turmoil Unveiled: Funding Battles, Leadership Drama, and Breakthroughs

  • CEO Sam Altman ousted and reinstated, highlighting the struggle between commercialization and safety in AI startups.
  • Microsoft's pivotal role reveals the influence of monetization-oriented funding, emphasizing the delicate balance companies must navigate.
  • The unique "capped-profit" structure at OpenAI challenged by Microsoft's substantial investment, showcasing the power of compute resources.
By Lethabo Ntsoane

In the ever-evolving landscape of artificial intelligence (AI), recent events have unfolded at a rapid pace, captivating attention and shedding light on the complex interplay between innovation, funding, and ethical considerations. This week, the spotlight was undeniably on the leadership controversy at AI startup OpenAI, revealing the inherent challenges faced by companies in balancing commercialization and safety in the quest for AI advancements.

The OpenAI Leadership Controversy

The tumultuous saga at OpenAI involved the ousting and subsequent reinstatement of CEO Sam Altman. Allegedly, Altman’s priorities, perceived as favoring commercialization over safety, led to his initial removal. Microsoft, a major OpenAI backer, played a pivotal role in Altman’s return, highlighting the influence of monetization-oriented funding sources in shaping the trajectory of AI companies.

OpenAI, in an attempt to maintain independence, implemented a unique “capped-profit” structure. However, Microsoft’s substantial investment, largely in the form of Azure cloud credits, showcased the significance of compute resources as a powerful leverage tool. This incident underscores the delicate dance AI companies must perform, navigating the high costs of AI model development while mitigating the risks associated with influential backers.

The Cost of AI Development

The cost of training large language models like GPT-3, the predecessor to OpenAI’s flagship GPT-4, is staggering. Estimates suggest that training such models could exceed $4 million, excluding expenses for hiring data scientists, AI experts, and software engineers. To cope with these expenses, many AI labs forge strategic agreements with public cloud providers, emphasizing the increasing value of compute resources.

Public cloud providers, like Google and Amazon, invest in AI startups, providing both financial support and exclusive compute infrastructure. However, as seen in the OpenAI debacle, these partnerships pose risks, as tech giants may exert influence in alignment with their own agendas.

Notable AI Stories from the Past Week

OpenAI’s Humanity-Saving Tech: Despite recent headlines suggesting otherwise, experts dismiss the notion that OpenAI has developed AI tech with the potential to threaten humanity. The controversy surrounding OpenAI has prompted a closer examination of the forces shaping the AI revolution.

California’s AI Regulations: The California Privacy Protection Agency is taking steps to establish regulations governing the use of people’s data for AI. Drawing inspiration from the European Union’s rules, these regulations aim to address the ethical considerations surrounding AI applications.

Google’s Bard AI: Google’s Bard AI chatbot can now answer questions about YouTube videos. This enhancement enables users to receive specific answers related to the content of a video, showcasing the continuous integration of AI into everyday digital interactions.

Anthropic’s Claude 2.1: Anthropic’s release of Claude 2.1, an improvement on its flagship large language model, positions it competitively against OpenAI’s GPT series. The update brings enhancements in context window, accuracy, and extensibility.

Stability AI’s Video Generator: Stability AI introduces Stable Video Diffusion, an open-source AI model capable of generating videos by animating existing images. This innovation expands the realm of AI-generated content beyond text and images.

AI21 Labs’ Funding: AI21 Labs, a Tel Aviv-based startup developing generative AI products, raises $53 million in funding, showcasing the continued investor interest in advancing AI technologies.

Advancements in AI Research and Applications

Reeb Map for Neural Networks: Researchers at Purdue University create a human-readable “Reeb map” providing insights into how neural networks represent visual concepts. This macroscopic view aids in understanding the network’s interpretation of data.

Senseiver for Sparse Datasets: Los Alamos National Lab introduces Senseiver, a model based on Google’s Perceiver, capable of making accurate predictions with sparse measurements. This tool holds potential for applications in climate measurements and scientific readings.

Self-Organizing Neural Networks: A team from UCLA and the University of Sydney develops a self-organizing neural network that outperforms conventional approaches in identifying hand-written numbers. While in early stages, this innovation hints at the future integration of neural network principles into hardware design.

AI Contributions to Social Challenges

GeoMatch for Refugees: Stanford researchers work on GeoMatch, a tool designed to assist refugees and immigrants in finding suitable locations based on their skills and situations. This AI-driven approach streamlines the decision-making process for placement officers.

Automated Feeding System: Robotics researchers at the University of Washington present an automated feeding system for individuals unable to eat on their own. This evolving project showcases the potential of AI in addressing real-world challenges and adapting to community feedback.

Open Source Accessibility: Google makes its pathfinding app, Project Guideline, open source. This move allows researchers to leverage the technology developed by Google to aid visually impaired individuals in navigating paths.

Engaging the Community: FathomVerse

In a lighter note, FathomVerse emerges as a game/tool for identifying sea creatures, akin to popular apps for identifying plants. This project seeks community engagement in beta testing to enhance its capability to identify sea life accurately.


The dynamic landscape of AI continues to captivate with its blend of controversies, financial intricacies, and cutting-edge advancements. As the industry grapples with challenges, from leadership disputes to ethical considerations, the relentless pursuit of innovation drives AI into new frontiers, contributing solutions to societal challenges and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. The coming weeks promise more revelations, breakthroughs, and, undoubtedly, more debates as AI continues to shape our future.

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Lethabo Ntsoane

Lethabo Ntsoane holds a Bachelors Degree in Accounting from the University of South Africa. He is a Financial Product commentator at Rateweb. He is an expect financial product analyst with years of experience in reviewing products and offering commentary. Lethabo majors in financial news, reviews and financial tips. He can be contacted: Email: lethabo@rateweb.co.za Twitter: @NtsoaneLethabo