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Trillions of Words Analyzed, OpenAI Sets Loose AI Language Colossus

Greg Brockman, co-founder and chief technology officer of OpenAI, speaks during TechCrunch Disrupt 2019 in San Francisco, California, on Oct. 3, 2019. 

Greg Brockman, co-founder and chief technology officer of OpenAI, speaks during TechCrunch Disrupt 2019 in San Francisco, California, on Oct. 3, 2019. 

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Over the past few months, OpenAI has vacuumed an incredible amount of data into its artificial intelligence language systems. It sucked up Wikipedia, a huge swath of the rest of the internet and tons of books. This mass of text – trillions of words – was then analyzed and manipulated by a supercomputer to create what the research group bills as a major AI breakthrough and the heart of its first commercial product, which came out on Thursday.

The product name — OpenAI calls it “the API” — might not be magical, but the things it can accomplish do seem to border on wizardry at times. The software can perform a broad set of language tasks, including translating between languages, writing news stories and poems and answering everyday questions. Ask it, for example, if you should keep reading a story, and you might be told, “Definitely. The twists and turns keep coming.”