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AI start-up Anthropic raises $450mn from Google and Spark Capital

Artificial intelligence start-up Anthropic has raised $450mn to develop a rival to ChatGPT, in a sign that investment in the sector will continue even as questions grow over how best to regulate the technology.

The round was led by Spark Capital, a San Francisco-based venture fund that has previously invested in Twitter and Coinbase, with participation from Google, Salesforce and Zoom.

Dario Amodei, Anthropic’s chief executive and former head of AI safety at OpenAI, said the funding would support “AI research and products that put safety at the frontier”. Amodei was part of a group of OpenAI researchers who split from the organisation to set up Anthropic in 2021.

“Our team is focused on AI alignment techniques that allow AI systems to better handle adversarial conversations, follow precise instructions, and generally be more transparent about their behaviours and limitations,” the company said.

Anthropic did not disclose its latest valuation, but had raised at least $1bn before the increase announced on Tuesday. In late 2022, Google invested about $300mn in the company, taking a 10 per cent stake in return.

Money has gushed into AI start-ups in the past six months, fuelling a race to develop increasingly powerful tools to improve productivity, open the door to breakthroughs in medicine and make the internet more easily navigable.

OpenAI this year secured a multibillion-dollar investment from Microsoft that valued the company at about $30bn. Rival start-ups, including Inflection and Cohere, have also been raising funds.

The pace of investment has accelerated as AI start-ups have powered through a series of technological breakthroughs since OpenAI launched its chatbot ChatGPT in November. But warnings about the societal impacts of the technology have also become starker.

Even among founders of AI companies, there are fears that the increasing sophistication of chatbots capable of generating lengthy, varied and often creative responses from short prompts could cause widespread job losses and dislocation across large tracts of the economy.

OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman wrote in a blog post on Monday that it was “conceivable that within the next ten years, AI systems will exceed expert skill level in most domains, and carry out as much productive activity as one of today’s largest corporations”.

“We can have a dramatically more prosperous future; but we have to manage risk to get there,” wrote Altman, who is raising about $100mn for a separate project to create a global cryptocurrency that could be handed out as universal basic income if AI leads to mass job cuts.

US president Joe Biden and European leaders have summoned executives of various AI companies, including Anthropic and OpenAI, to discuss a regulatory framework in which the technology can develop safely.

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