Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has kicked in to fund a new non-profit research company that seeks to promote ethical and safe artificial intelligence (AI).

The high-tech think-tank OpenAI has been launched by the Telsa Motors chief executive and other wealthy sponsors, including Jessica Livingston and Sam Altman from Y Combinator and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

Together they have contributed a total of $US1 billion.

In a blog post announcing its launch, the OpenAI team said artificial intelligence needs to be developed to benefit society, rather than serve the self interest of any private company.

“AI systems today have impressive but narrow capabilities,” the blog post, attributed to research director Ilya Sutskever, chief technology officer Greg Brockman and the OpenAI team, stated.

“It seems that we'll keep whittling away at their constraints, and in the extreme case they will reach human performance on virtually every intellectual task.

“It's hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society, and it's equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly.

“Because of AI's surprising history, it's hard to predict when human-level AI might come within reach.

“When it does, it'll be important to have a leading research institution which can prioritise a good outcome for all over its own self interest.”

Mr Musk has spoken out about potential dangers of AI several times in the past.

Earlier this year, Musk joined physicist Stephen Hawking to call for a ban on autonomous weapons.

They started the push, and were joined by Steve Wozniak and Noam Chomsky, ahead of an international weapons conference in July.

The experts warn that the development of ‘thinking’ weapons was feasible within years.

“The stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms,” the letter read.