Google is making a massive bet on Anthropic, an artificial intelligence startup founded by former executives from OpenAI, agreeing to invest up to $2 billion in the company. The huge financing underscores Anthropic’s potential to challenge OpenAI in conversational AI.
Google committed $500 million upfront in cash to Anthropic, according to a company spokesperson. An additional $1.5 billion investment from Google will be made over time. The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
With its investment, Google aims to counter the rapid ascendance of OpenAI, the research lab behind the red-hot ChatGPT chatbot. Microsoft previously plowed $1 billion into OpenAI in 2019 and just announced plans to invest $10 billion more.
The battle for AI talent between tech titans comes as conversational systems like ChatGPT captivate consumers and spark fears of disruption across industries. Anthropic’s AI-powered Claude chatbot is seen as a leading contender to take on OpenAI.
“This is a validation of our approach to building safe and beneficial AI and of our extraordinarily talented team,” said Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei. “We’ll continue to pave the way for Claude to be helpful, harmless, and honest.”
Anthropic was founded in early 2021 by Amodei, formerly the VP of research at OpenAI, along with a core group of other ex-OpenAI scientists including his sister Daniela Amodei. The startup has raised over $700 million to date at a $4.1 billion valuation.
Claude Shows Promise As ChatGPT Alternative
While ChatGPT exploded in popularity after its launch in November, some researchers found Claude to be more accurate and transparent in responding to questions. Experts say responsible development of conversational AI is critical.
“We have tested both Claude and ChatGPT extensively and found Claude to be more robust and reliable,” said Arthur AI CEO Adam Wenchel. “Anthropic’s focus on safety and research rigor shows in Claude’s performance.”
Claude’s strengths include clearly delineating what information it can and can’t provide when asked questions outside its knowledge base. Such “self-awareness” helps curtail the risk of users accepting false or nonsensical responses as fact.
“We’re trying to develop AI that is helpful, harmless, and honest,” Amodei told CNBC in July. “That involves significant additional work beyond just building a very large model.”
Like ChatGPT, Claude can summarize lengthy text passages, hold natural conversations, generate essays and code and perform other tasks. Both can absorb massive datasets during training. But Claude’s capabilities currently lag OpenAI’s system in areas like creativity and personality.
Still, Claude has already been integrated into business tools from companies like Slack, Notion and Quora. Its well-rounded performance suggests a promising path as it evolves.
Google Joins Microsoft In AI Investment Race
With its Anthropic financing, Google aims to stay at the forefront of conversational AI, a field with immense potential to enhance its search engine and other services.
Google first invested $300 million into Anthropic in April 2022, giving it around a 10% stake. The pair of investments vaults Google into the upper echelon of backers in private AI companies.
Microsoft’s decision to plow $10 billion into OpenAI reflects CEO Satya Nadella’s view that artificial general intelligence, or AGI, will be the most transformational technologyhumans develop.
“The race to AGI is on…and for the first time this century, Microsoft is in it,” said a blog post announcing the expanded OpenAI partnership.
Major tech platforms see conversational systems like ChatGPT and Claude as providing interfaces to information that feel far more natural and intuitive than search boxes and menus. The technology could overhaul how users interact with devices and software.
Companies are also racing to better integrate AI into their core products. For Google, improving search with elements of generative language could help fend off ascendant AI upstarts.
AI Investment Surge Highlights Talent Battle
Google’s ability to invest up to $2 billion in Anthropic underscores its massive financial firepower versus younger rivals. But winning the race in artificial intelligence will come down to amassing the best human talent.
“There is really quite a lot of room for many different users and types of users to make use of these systems,” said Daniela Amodei.
Amodei co-founded Anthropic with several other former senior researchers from OpenAI. The expertise of Anthropic’s team in building safe conversational models was a key draw for Google.
However, Google also lost one of its top AI minds last year when former Google Brain research director Samy Bengio left for a position at Anthropic. The defection highlighted the fierce competition for scarce AI talent among deep-pocketed contenders.
Big Tech platforms, research labs and AI startups now find themselves in bidding wars for the brightest developers, engineers and scientists in the field.
Huge investments, compensation packages and appeals to ethics and purpose are all being made to attract and retain key technologists. The balance of power in AI for years to come may be determined by who assembles the strongest teams.
Conversational AI Set To Redefine Work and Leisure
Underpinning the interest in Anthropic is the enormous potential mainstream adoption of conversational AI could unlock across consumer and enterprise domains.
From querying search engines to customer service interactions to creative pursuits, systems like ChatGPT and Claude promise to reshape how humans use computers. Seamless dialogue capability could bring an end user revolution on par with the Web and mobile.
But with such sweeping change comes risk if the technology is not developed thoughtfully. Discriminatory outputs, factually incorrect information and other harms must be addressed, experts say.
“This really hits at the heart of one of the most important questions for humanity: how do we create beneficial AI?” said Daniela Amodei.
By committing major resources to Anthropic, Google aims to ensure it has a leading role in developing conversational AI responsibly for the common good. The path forward for transformational technologies like Claude and ChatGPT remains long. But the destination could redefine what’s possible in work and life.