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PayPal founders Musk, Thiel, Hoffman give $1B to advance artificial intelligence research

The Associated Press
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Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk, speaking at a conference Dec. 2, 2015, at the Paris Pantheon Sorbonne University, is joining forces with several other technology luminaries and companies to contribute $1 billion to finance a Silicon Valley research center that will dig deeper into the field of artificial intelligence.
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LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, left, with company CEO Jeff Weiner in the lobby of LinkedIn's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. Photo taken May 7, 2013.
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Forbes
Peter Thiel, former CEO of PayPal.

Three billionaires who launched PayPal and went on to even greater success in their next ventures are trying to make sure artificial intelligence does more good than harm to humans.

PayPal ringleaders Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman are joining forces with several other technology luminaries and companies to contribute $1 billion to finance a Silicon Valley research center that will dig deeper into the field of artificial intelligence, or “machine learning.”

The nonprofit company, called OpenAI, will focus on improving “digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole.”

Musk, who has amassed an estimated fortune of $13 billion, has been particularly outspoken about his fears that computers could work against humans if the efforts to develop artificial intelligence go awry. He made waves last year when he described artificial intelligence as a potential “demon” and our “biggest existential threat.”

OpenAI will be run by Ilya Sutskever, who spent the past three years working for Google’s “brain team” that focused on machine learning.

Although he first got rich as a PayPal co-founder, Musk has made far more money as CEO of electric car maker Tesla Motors and rocket ship maker Space X.

Thiel, PayPal’s former CEO, is better known as one of Facebook’s early investors and a critic of college education. His fortune is estimated at about $3 billion.

Hoffman, one of PayPal’s first employees, co-founded professional networking service LinkedIn Corp., which accounts for most of his estimated fortune of about $4 billion.

— Michael Liedtke, AP technology writer

Mobile pay systems continue to grow

Tap-and-pay services continue to expand gradually.

Google said Tuesday that it will start offering Android Pay in Australia in the first half of next year. Google Inc. said it’s working with leading financial institutions with the goal of making it available to MasterCard and Visa card holders. Apple Pay launched in Australia last month, but only for American Express customers.

Android Pay is Google’s answer to Apple Pay, which requires an Apple device. Both let you make purchases by tapping the phone next to a store’s payment machine — as long as it’s a newer machine with wireless capabilities known as NFC.

Samsung has its own payment service, Samsung Pay, on its main Android phones. It goes further than Android and Apple Pay in working with many machines that lack NFC. That’s because it has a backup mechanism to replicate old-school card swipes.

On Tuesday, Samsung announced support for 19 additional banks, including PNC Bank and KeyBank.

Even as phone makers push their mobile-payment services, financial institutions and retailers such as Wal-Mart have been working on their own services.

— Anick Jesdanun, AP technology writer

Microsoft relaxes storage limits

After a backlash, Microsoft is reversing part of its plan to tighten free storage offered through its OneDrive online storage service.

Last month, Microsoft said it will cut its free option to 5 gigabytes next year, down from 15 gigabytes. Microsoft said the new allotment is enough for about 6,600 Office documents or 1,600 photos.

That cut will still apply to new customers, but existing customers can keep the 15 gigabytes, plus any bonuses they had earned through promotions. But they must claim them by the end of January at aka.ms/onedrivestorage.

Microsoft Corp. still plans to eliminate unlimited storage for subscribers of its Office 365 service, which starts at $7 a month. Subscribers will now be limited to 1 terabyte, or 1,000 gigabytes, of storage. The company said a “small number of users” had abused the unlimited option by backing up numerous personal computers and storing entire movie collections.

— Anick Jesdanun, AP technology writer

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