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OpenAI keen on supporting startups, education in India

OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman, who is on a visit to India, said that the company is committed to backing startups in the country, with conversations are already underway to facilitate this initiative. He also said that education is one of the areas that he is most excited about.

The OpenAI CEO said that backing startups in India takes higher priority than opening an office in India at the moment. “The energy we have seen from startups here, we are very excited to figure out how we can support them,” he said, adding “We had some conversations yesterday with Indian startups and we would love to invest in Indian startups.”

Altman met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday and discussed opportunities for artificial intelligence in India, he said while speaking at an event in the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Delhi.

“We talked about the opportunities for AI in India and also the need to think about global regulation,” Altman said, during the fireside chat hours after the meeting with the PM. He said that he is most excited about education. “We had a chat with the PM on it (education) earlier today and we would love to work with India on this,” he said.

Altman also reiterated the importance of regulation in AI and the need to transition to clean energy for training these models. “We want to be net zero immediately. We are looking at a lot of cooling ideas that do not evaporate fresh water.”

The ChatGPT maker raised $175 million to launch a startup fund to back startups that are working on pushing the boundaries of AI last month. The firm has been backing AI startups for a while. In November 2022, it said that it will provide $1 million each to 10 AI startups and also give them early access to its systems. However, Indian startups have so far not received backing from OpenAI, even though many have adopted ChatGPT and GPT-4 (the underlying platform of ChatGPT) quickly.

According to Stanford University’s annual AI Index report, published in April, India received the fifth highest investment in AI startups in the world in 2022 after the US, China, UK and Israel. Indian AI startups raised $3.24 billion last year.

The Chennai-based conversational AI startup Uniphore raised $400 million in February, the largest by an Indian AI startup, taking its valuation to $2.5 billion.

“We are designing systems now that have significant energy usage,” Altman said, adding that the industry should push hardware as much as it can, while simultaneously pushing for optimization of models.

OpenAI is a San Francisco-based AI startup, which created powerful large language models (LLMs) such as GPT-3.5 and GPT4.

The Microsoft-backed startup raised $300 million at a valuation of $29 billion in April. Its biggest investor Microsoft has reportedly invested close to $10 billion in it and has used its technology to offer new services and products such as Azure OpenAI, Microsoft 365 Copilot and Bing Chat.

Last Month, Sam Altman said in his testimony before a US Senate committee that governments should create an oversight agency to regulate and licence AI companies. He also said that AI companies like his own should be independently audited. Altman also signed an open letter, published by Center for AI Safety, which warned that AI poses a risk of extinction to humans. The letter was also signed by several other industry executives and scientists including Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, AI scientist Geoffrey Hinton, Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott, and Stability AI CEO Emad Mustaque.

Altman’s testimony comes at a time when there is a growing concern about the potential risks of AI, especially generative AI, which can use data to generate human-like content, such as images, text, and music in seconds. Its downside is that it is prone to hallucination and can generate misleading and harmful content.

In March, several executives led by Elon Musk have also called for a six-month moratorium on the development of more advanced AI models.

Early this week, India’s IT industry body Nasscom released guidelines to establish common standards for the responsible research, development, and use of generative AI in India. The guidelines aim to help the industry use generative AI for societal good and build trust in the technology.

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Updated: 08 Jun 2023, 10:30 PM IST

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