OpenAI will start selling its text-generation tech, and the first customers include Reddit

Previously too dangerous to share; now yours for a price

Research lab OpenAI, which started as a nonprofit with the goal of mitigating the potential harms of artificial intelligence, has announced its first commercial product: an AI text-generation system that the outfit previously warned was too dangerous to share.

OpenAI’s work on text generation attracted much acclaim after the lab published the text generator GPT-2 in February last year. The project was widely seen as a significant step forward in the field. Users can input any text prompt into GPT-2 — a few lines of a song, a short story, even a scientific paper — and the software will continue writing, matching the style and content to some degree. You can try a web version of GPT-2 for yourself here.

OpenAI initially limited the release of GPT-2 due to concerns the system would be used for malicious purposes, like the mass-generation of fake news or spam. It later published the code in full, saying it had seen “no strong evidence of misuse.” This year, it announced a more sophisticated version of the system, 100 times larger, named GPT-3, which it’s now adapted into its first commercial product.

Access to the GPT-3 API is invitation-only, and pricing is undecided. It’s also not clear, even to OpenAI itself, exactly how the system might be used. The API could be used to improve the fluency of chatbots, to create new gaming experiences, and much more besides.

AI text generators like GPT-3 work by analyzing a huge corpus of text, and learning to predict what letters and words tend to follow after one another. This sounds like a simple learning approach, but it produces software that is incredibly flexible and varied. GPT-2, for example, has been used to create a range of tools, from chatbots to text-based dungeon generators. And because it learns how to generate data simply by looking for past patterns, it can even be tuned to play chess and solve math problems, given the right training.


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