The history of OpenAI, from the early days with Elon Musk to the ChatGPT maker being put on blast by Scarlett Johansson

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OpenAI's latest product announcement is GPT-4o.Photo illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

OpenAI is best known for popularizing AI chatbots with ChatGPT.

But the company that created the AI chatbot has a history with some of Silicon Valley's biggest names.

Here's everything you need to know about OpenAI, from being founded by Elon Musk to its eye-popping tech.

OpenAI has taken the world by storm since its AI chatbot, ChatGPT, went viral upon its release in November 2022.The company counts Elon Musk among its cofounders, though he has since cut ties and become a vocal critic of it (while launching his own competitor). Since then, OpenAI CEO and cofounder Sam Altman has become a household name, and even survived an ousting by his board.OpenAI has kept busy, releasing updates to its massively popular chatbot at a rapid pace as well as new products, like the image-generation tool DALL-E and its upcoming video-generation tool Sora.Last week, it showed off its latest AI model, the omnimodal GPT-4o, which can do things like translate conversations in real time and assess your physical surroundings to reason and problem-solve.But the story of OpenAI started years before the first version of ChatGPT was launched to the masses.Here's a look at how OpenAI came to be one of the biggest players in the industry.OpenAI released an early demo of ChatGPT in November 2022, and the conversational chatbot quickly went viral on social media.People took to social media to show how they were using ChatGPT to do everything from code to come up with recipes.ChatGPTWithin five days the chatbot had over one million users, as people took to social media to share examples of ChatGPT's many capabilities — from casual conversation to essay writing and coding.The artificial intelligence company that created it is now backed by Microsoft, but has a long history with some of Silicon Valley's biggest names.Elon Musk and former Y Combinator president Sam Altman cofounded OpenAI in 2015.Elon Musk and Sam Altman are among OpenAI's cofounders.Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity FairMusk, Altman, and other prominent Silicon Valley characters, including Peter Thiel and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, pledged $1 billion to the project in 2015.The group aimed to create a nonprofit focused on developing artificial intelligence "in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole," according to a statement on OpenAI's website from December 11, 2015.At the time, Musk said that AI was the "biggest existential threat" to humanity.OpenAI's founding statement warned of the perils of AI "if built or used incorrectly."Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images"It's hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society, and it's equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly," the statement announcing the founding of Open AI continued.In 2016, OpenAI released two products.Some of OpenAI's earliest products were Gym and Universe.Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesThere was Gym, a platform that allowed researchers to develop and compare reinforcement learning systems. These systems teach AI to come to decisions with the best cumulative rewards.Later that year, OpenAI also released Universe, a toolkit for training intelligent agents across websites and gaming platforms.In 2018, three years after helping found the company, Musk resigned from OpenAI's board of directors.Musk left OpenAI's board in 2018.Christophe Gateau/Getty ImagesThe company said in a blog post at the time that the Tesla CEO resigned to "eliminate potential future conflict" due to the carmaker's focus on AI.The company added that Musk would continue to donate to the nonprofit.Musk had been telling Tesla investors for years about his plans to make the electric cars autonomous.Musk later said he quit the company because he "didn't agree with some of what [the] OpenAI team wanted to do."Musk later gave other reasons for his departure.Photo illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesIn 2019, the billionaire said on X, formerly Twitter, that Tesla was also competing for some of the same employees as OpenAI, adding that he hadn't been involved with the company for "over a year.""Add that all up & it was just better to part ways on good terms," he said.Musk has continued to take issue with OpenAI in recent years.OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Elon Musk have publicly squabbled.GettyIn 2020, Musk said on Twitter that his confidence in the company was "not high" when it came to safety."OpenAI should be more open imo," the billionaire tweeted in response to an investigation into the company by MIT Technology Review.The publication said that an investigation into OpenAI revealed a culture of secrecy that ran counter to the nonprofit's purported commitment to transparency.Musk also said he paused OpenAI's access to Twitter's database for training its software."Need to understand more about governance structure & revenue plans going forward," he said in December 2022. "OpenAI was started as open-source & non-profit. Neither are still true."In 2019, the company built an AI tool that could craft fake news stories.Though the company initially decided against releasing the fake news AI, it later did anyway.OpenAIAt first, OpenAI said the bot was so good at writing fake news that they decided not to release it. Later that year, the company released a version of the AI tool as GPT-2.The company released another chatbot called GPT-3 in 2020.That same year, OpenAI shed its status as a nonprofit.OpenAI became "capped profit" in 2019.Brian Ach/Getty Images for TechCrunchThe company announced that it had become a "capped profit" corporation in a blog post."We want to increase our ability to raise capital while still serving our mission, and no pre-existing legal structure we know of strikes the right balance," the company said. "Our solution is to create OpenAI LP as a hybrid of a for-profit and nonprofit — which we are calling a 'capped-profit' company."The profit structure introduced at the time meant OpenAI investors could earn up to 100 times their original investment, but nothing over that. The remaining money would go to not-for-profit work.OpenAI announced a partnership with Microsoft at the end of 2019.Microsoft and OpenAI have a licensing partnership.Abdulhamid Hosbas/Getty ImagesMicrosoft invested $1 billion in the AI company, and OpenAI said it would exclusively license its technology with the tech company."The scope of commercial and creative potential that can be unlocked through the GPT-3 model is profound, with genuinely novel capabilities – most of which we haven't even imagined yet," Microsoft said in a blog post."Directly aiding human creativity and ingenuity in areas like writing and composition, describing and summarizing large blocks of long-form data (including code), converting natural language to another language – the possibilities are limited only by the ideas and scenarios that we bring to the table," it said.The partnership allows Microsoft to compete with Google's DeepMind AI company.In 2021, OpenAI released an AI art generator.OpenAI's Dall-E is a text-to-image model.OpenAIDall-E is an AI system that can create realistic images and even art based on descriptions of the images.OpenAI released the first version of GPT-4 in March 2023 and the next generation of the model, GPT-4 Turbo, that November.ChatGPT got improvements in 2023.FLORENCE LO/ReutersMusk, meanwhile, is still commenting.Musk continues to criticize OpenAI on X, formerly Twitter.John Raoux/AP Photo"We are not far from dangerously strong AI," Musk tweeted in response to a post from Altman.He also called ChatGPT "scary good."The same month GPT-4 launched, Musk and more than 1,000 other people, including AI experts, signed an open letter calling for a 6-month pause on advanced AI development until "we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable."

—Sam Altman (@sama) December 3, 2022 Meanwhile, Musk was readying his own rival AI company, xAI, and later launched an AI chatbot through X, formerly Twitter, called Grok.  In January 2023, it was reported that Microsoft plans to invest $10 billion in OpenAI over the next few years.Microsoft is investing billions into OpenAI's efforts.CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty ImagesMicrosoft said it was making a "multiyear, multibillion-dollar" investment in OpenAI.Citing people familiar with the issue, Semafor reported at the time that the investment would give Microsoft a 75% share of OpenAI's profits until the investment was earned back and then a 49% stake going forward.In November 2023, OpenAI was rocked by the board's decision to fire CEO Sam Altman.Sam Altman was out and back in at OpenAI in the span of less than a week.JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images"Mr. Altman's departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities," OpenAI said in a blog post at the time. "The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI."OpenAI president and cofounder Greg Brockman quit in light of the news, and CTO Mira Murati was named interim CEO briefly before former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear was named to the position days later.Microsoft hired Altman and Brockman to join a new AI team. Shortly after, nearly the entirety of OpenAI's employees signed a letter calling on Altman to be reinstated as CEO and demanding the board be fired, or else they'd jump ship to join Altman and Brockman at Microsoft.Altman ultimately returned to OpenAI as CEO, just days after his ousting, and multiple board members were replaced.In February 2024, OpenAI unveiled a new tool, Sora, that creates eerily realistic videos based on users' text prompts.Sora turns users' text prompts into videos.OpenAISora can also generate videos from still images and "extend" existing videos. OpenAI has reportedly been shopping around the tool to Hollywood.In May 2024, OpenAI released GPT-4o, its newest flagship AI model.OpenAI recently announced its newest flagship model, GPT-4o.Future PublishingGPT-4o can process text, image, video, and audio as both inputs and outputs. It can do things like translate in real time, make sense of your physical surroundings, and even sing (kind of).It's far more natural in its conventional skills too, and can be interrupted by the questioner for a more engaging communication flow.Days later, actress Scarlett Johansson put out a statement accusing OpenAI of using a voice "eerily similar" to hers for GPT-4 and GPT-4o.Scarlett Johansson says the "Sky" voice feature sounds "eerily similar" to her voice.Monica Schipper/GettyJohansson says OpenAI copied the voice of her character in the movie "Her," in which a man falls in love with an AI chatbot. She says Altman reached out last year asking her to provide a voice for GPT-4, but she declined, so she was "shocked, angered, and in disbelief" to hear how much the new "Sky" voice feature sounds like her."We cast the voice actor behind Sky's voice before any outreach to Ms. Johansson. Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused using Sky's voice in our products," Altman said in a statement in response. "We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn't communicate better."OpenAI has paused the use of the voice feature.Read the original article on Business Insider

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