OpenAI are awarded the Professor Hawking Fellowship

The team behind ChatGPT receive the prestigious fellowship, with its CEO to accept the award

The team behind ChatGPT and DALL-E has been announced as the recipient of the 2023 Professor Hawking Fellowship, with Mr Sam Altman, the CEO and Co-Founder, scheduled to deliver the Fellowship Lecture on Wednesday 1st November 2023.

This is the first time that the award has been given to a group since its creation in 2017. Previous recipients of the award have included Professor Stephen Hawking, Dame Jane Goodall, Bill Gates, Sir Jonny Ive, and Dr Katalin Karikó, this year’s Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine.

OpenAI researches artificial intelligence with the intention of developing “safe and beneficial” artificial general intelligence for the benefit of humanity. Founded in 2015 by Sam Altman, Elon Musk (who later left in 2018), and others, it is best known for producing ChatGPT, which released in November 2022.

The Union’s Michaelmas President, Charlie Palmer, commented on behalf of The Fellowship Committee: “The models that the OpenAI team have developed, in particular DALL-E and ChatGPT, represent the first time that the general public has truly felt and understood the monumental changes that Artificial Intelligence will bring.

“What attracted the Fellowship Committee to OpenAI in particular though, is the positive and responsible vision for AGI that OpenAI espouses. Their commitment to open source and public access to AI has, in Mr Altman’s words, successfully shifted the Overton window on AI and AGI in a way that little else has previously been able to do. Combined, this is exactly what the Hawking Fellowship is about – recognising achievements that have had and will have an exceptional impact, but that are also done in the best interest of humanity, with the aim of improving the human condition and our understanding of the world”.

He also stated that the reason the Fellowship was given to a group, rather than an individual, is because it is “the most appropriate way of recognising the collaborative nature of the achievement”.

Image credits: Julie Pimentel licensed under Creative Commons

Professor Hawking spoke in 2015 on the topic of AI, stating that “the advent of superintelligent AI, would be either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity. Our future is a race between the growing power of our technology, and the wisdom with which we use it. Let’s make sure that wisdom wins”.

In another speech at Cambridge University in 2016, Professor Hawking commented: “The potential benefits of creating intelligence are huge. We cannot predict what we might achieve when our own minds are amplified by AI. Perhaps with the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by the last one – industrialisation. And surely we will aim to finally eradicate disease and poverty. Every aspect of our lives will be transformed. In short, success in creating AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilisation”.

On the announcement of the Fellowship this year, the Hawking family commented: “we are very excited that the Hawking Fellowship at the Cambridge Union has been awarded to OpenAI this year. Our father Stephen was deeply engaged with issues around AI and its potential impact on all aspects of society in the future. Many of his early comments on the new technology were extremely prescient and have been often quoted over the past year. We believe he would have been strongly in support of this award which brings the founders of OpenAI to Cambridge to debate their work and share their insights with students”.

Charlie Palmer added: “The Cambridge Union Society is grateful for the Phoenix Partnership’s generous support of the fellowship”.

Cover image: Brian Ach/TechCrunch licensed under Creative Commons

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