John Carmack's AGI Startup Keen Technologies Raises $20 Milllion

The funding will help Carmack's new venture to work on artificial general intelligence, a category of AI which is theoretically capable of performing a number of human functions and behaving very similarly to a human.

John Carmack, one of id Software co-founders and former chief technology officer at VR giant Oculus, revealed that his new startup focused on artificial general intelligence (AGI), Keen Technologies, has raised $20 million.

Carmack shared that the funding round was led by former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and Cue co-founder Daniel Gross with the participation of other individual investors including Stripe co-founder and CEO Patrick Collison and Shopify co-founder and CEO Tobi Lütke. VC firms Sequoia Capital and Austin-based Capital Factory also took part in the round.

Carmack announced the news on Twitter confirming the information he shared in the recent Lex Fridman Podcast.

"This is explicitly a focusing effort for me. I could write a $20M check myself, but knowing that other people's money is on the line engenders a greater sense of discipline and determination," he wrote. "I had talked about that as a possibility for a while, and I am glad Nat pushed me on it."

Carmack's new venture will work with AGI, a category of AI which is theoretically capable of performing various human functions which are set to be broader than those that current AI systems are able to perform. In contrast to AGI, AI is not designed to have general cognitive abilities and can be tasked with rather simple tasks like generating art, driving cars, and playing video games. Meanwhile, AGI is expected to understand or learn any intellectual task that a human being can.

While many specialists don't have much hope for humanity ever achieving AGI or say that it will take at least a century to develop such complicated systems, Carmack believes that AGI is likely less than a decade from entering the market.

In the aforementioned podcast, Carmack stated that, in his opinion, AI will one day become a "universal remote worker" capable of completing tasks typically done by employees mediated by a computer and will come to the point when it'll be able to behave very similarly to a human or other creature.

"I do not believe in fast takeoffs … but I think that we will go from a point where we start seeing AI-powered things that credibly look like animals," Carmack said. "I think animal intelligence is closer to human intelligence than a lot of people like to think, and … There’s just that smooth spectrum of how the brain developed and cortexes and scaling of different things going on there."

Carmack first revealed his intention to focus on artificial general intelligence in November 2019 when he shared that he moved to a consulting CTO position at Oculus to spend more time on AGI. In this new announcement, Carmack stated that he is not planning to stop consulting Meta on VR-related matters but noted that he will devote just about 20% of his time to the company.

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