OpenAI co-founder creates a new AI startup with a research lab in Tel Aviv

Safe Superintelligence, co-founded by Ilya Sutskever, plans to open offices in Palo Alto and Tel Aviv to recruit top talent and hire the world’s best engineers and researchers

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

OpenAI co-founders Sam Altman (center) and Ilya Sutskever (right) on a panel at Tel Aviv University, June 5, 2023. (Chen Galili)
OpenAI co-founders Sam Altman (center) and Ilya Sutskever (right) on a panel at Tel Aviv University, June 5, 2023. (Chen Galili)

OpenAI co-founder Ilya Sutskever is scouting for top tech talent in Israel as he is starting a new venture to figure out how to create a safe environment for “superintelligent” AI systems that are smarter than humans.

Sutskever, OpenAI’s former chief scientist announced in a post on social media platform X on Wednesday that he is launching Safe Superintelligence Inc. together with Daniel Gross, a serial startup entrepreneur and former AI lead at Apple, and Daniel Levy, a former member of the technical staff at OpenAI.

The US company will have offices in Palo Alto and Tel Aviv, “where we have deep roots and the ability to recruit top technical talent,” the three co-founders said in a post on X.

“Building safe superintelligence (SSI) is the most important technical problem of our​​ time,” the post said. “We are assembling a lean, cracked team of the world’s best engineers and researchers dedicated to focusing on SSI and nothing else.”

The announcement comes about a month after Sutskever decided to leave OpenAI, which he set up together with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in 2015 as a research and development lab with a mission to ensure that AI benefits all of humanity. Russian-born Sutskever grew up in Jerusalem and moved to Canada with his family at the age of 16.

“We approach safety and capabilities in tandem, as technical problems to be solved through revolutionary engineering and scientific breakthroughs,” the founders said.

In a conversation at Tel Aviv University a year ago, Altman and Sutskever, the creators of generative AI chatbot ChatGPT, talked about the opportunities and warned about the dangers of building smarter-than-human machines discussing the threats and challenges that AI and superintelligence will bring in the future.

“AI will be a very powerful technology used for amazing applications to cure diseases for example, but it could also be used to create a disease as time goes by and the capabilities will be increasing,” Sutskever said back in June last year. “It would be a big mistake to build superintelligence AI that we don’t know how to control.”

“We will need to have structures in place to control the use of the technology,” he cautioned.

The two tech pioneers uttered that they were impressed with the talent pool in Israel and expressed their confidence that the local tech ecosystem will play a “huge role” in the artificial intelligence revolution transforming the world in the coming years.

Israel has the “talent density” and its entrepreneurs have the “relentlessness, drive, ambition” that can give the nation “incredible prosperity both in terms of AI research and AI applications,” Altman remarked.

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