Microsoft today announced it is partnering with OpenAI, an Elon Musk-founded company that develops sophisticated AI technology under a charter mandating it benefits humanity. 

The tech giant will invest US$1 billion in the partnership which is aimed at improving its own cloud based AI offerings and the sophistication of technology in general. 

OpenAI was co-founded by Elon Musk in 2015 partly to address the risk AI poses to society. The company collaborates with partners and researchers, often sharing AI patents. Musk left the company in 2018 citing a potential future conflict with his Tesla AI projects.

As part of the new partnership, OpenAI will use Microsoft’s cloud services exclusively as it continues its work on artificial general intelligence – a form of AI that can solve complex problems beyond specified asks. 

Microsoft says the companies will build “a computational platform in Azure of unprecedented scale, which will train and run increasingly advanced AI models”. Those advances will then help developers build the next generation of AI applications, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft will also become OpenAI’s preferred partner for commercialising new AI technologies.

The broader goal of the partnership, Microsoft says, is developing AI technology that can address the world’s most critical challenges, including climate, healthcare and education.

“AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “By bringing together OpenAI’s breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratise AI — while always keeping AI safety front and center — so everyone can benefit.”

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman described the creation of artificial general intelligence as “the most important technological development in human history”.

“Our mission is to ensure that AGI technology benefits all of humanity, and we’re working with Microsoft to build the supercomputing foundation on which we’ll build AGI. We believe it’s crucial that AGI is deployed safely and securely and that its economic benefits are widely distributed. We are excited about how deeply Microsoft shares this vision.”

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