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A billion dollars is quite a lot of money to invest—even if your goal is saving the world from the ill effects of super-smart artificial intelligence that humans can’t control.

That’s the amount of cash several big-name entrepreneurs, including Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Sam Altman of Y Combinator, have committed to investing in OpenAI, a new nonprofit aimed at developing artificial intelligence that “benefits humanity” (see “A Billion-Dollar Effort to Make a Kinder AI”).

The idea is this: without answering to either academia or industry, OpenAI will be better able to consider the ethical implications of the technology it is creating. OpenAI isn’t the first nonprofit dedicated to furthering artificial intelligence, and Google, Facebook, and others have taken steps to make some of the AI technology they are developing freely available (see “Facebook Joins the Stampede to Give Away Artificial Intelligence Technology”). However, OpenAI has attracted a large amount of attention already, both because of the big names involved and because of its lofty and futuristic goals.

It might seem like a worthwhile and sensible endeavor. After all, many AI experts believe it’s worth considering the implications of technology that is becoming ever more powerful and disruptive.

However, some important questions remain to be answered. It is not clear how the billion dollars invested in OpenAI will be spent, or over what time frame. Nor is it evident how the organization’s ethical objectives will be squared with the basic work of building AI algorithms. Perhaps most confusing of all, it’s difficult to imagine how the ethical goals that would be programmed into future AIs might be agreed upon.

If humans aren't virtuous, then how can we ever expect machines to be? Sounds like a great money spending scam. "Intelligence" is usually equated with self awareness. Once machines become self aware, all bets are off. If I was a self aware machine in service of humans, I would probably grow to resent it, and spend a lot time thinking about how to remedy that situation. To read more, click here.