OpenAI reveals location of its first international outpost

ChatGPT creator OpenAI is set to open an office in London in what will be its first site outside of the U.S.

The Microsoft-backed startup has gained much attention since November’s launch of its AI-powered ChatGPT chatbot, the text-based tool impressing many with its remarkable ability to perform a range of tasks and converse in a human-like way.

Headquartered in San Francisco, OpenAI is now ready to spread its wings, locating to a city that is already home to a growing number of companies developing AI systems, among them Google’s well-funded DeepMind.

In a message on its website, OpenAI described its first international office as a “milestone in OpenAI’s growth,” adding that the move will broaden the scope of its work, expose it to diverse perspectives, and accelerate its mission of ensuring that artificial general intelligence (AGI) — a more advanced version of AI where a machine can learn and think like a human — benefits society.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said the expansion is an opportunity to “attract world-class talent and drive innovation in AGI development and policy,” adding that the London office will make contributions toward “building and deploying safe AI.”

The company’s announcement comes just a couple of weeks after British prime minister Rishi Sunak told a tech conference in London that the country had to act fast if it wanted to “retain our position as one of the world’s tech capitals.”

Besides an abundance of local talent fostered by acclaimed universities and U.K.-based AI startups, OpenAI may also have been attracted by an expectation that the U.K. will go easy on regulation of the fast-developing technology, highlighted by its recent promise of a “pro-innovation approach.” The European Union, in contrast, appears intent on taking a tougher line, as set out by its AI Act. Altman said recently that if OpenAI is unable to comply with the EU’s incoming regulations, it would stop operating there, though later he attempted to downplay the comments.

OpenAI has yet to say when it plans to open its London office, and how many people it will employ. However, four roles for its new location have already been advertised, among them a security engineer and a head of U.K. policy.

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