Jaan Tallinn

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Jaan Tallinn
Born (1972-02-14) 14 February 1972 (age 52)[1]
Tallinn, Estonia
EducationUniversity of Tartu (BSc)
Occupation(s)programmer, investor, philanthropist
Known forKazaa
Existential risk

Jaan Tallinn (born 14 February 1972) is an Estonian billionaire computer programmer and investor[2][3] known for his participation in the development of Skype and file-sharing application FastTrack/Kazaa.[4]

Jaan Tallinn is a leading figure in the field of existential risk, having co-founded both the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at the University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom[5][6] and the Future of Life Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States.[7][8][9][10] Tallinn was an early investor and board member at DeepMind (later acquired by Google) and various other artificial intelligence companies.


Jaan Tallinn graduated from the University of Tartu in Estonia in 1996 with a BSc in theoretical physics with a thesis that considered travelling interstellar distances using warps in spacetime.

Tallinn founded Bluemoon in Estonia alongside schoolmates Ahti Heinla and Priit Kasesalu. Bluemoon's Kosmonaut became, in 1989 (SkyRoads is the 1993 remake), the first Estonian game to be sold abroad, and earned the company US$5,000 (~$11,804 in 2022). By 1999, Bluemoon faced bankruptcy; its founders decided to acquire remote jobs for the Swedish Tele2 at a salary of US$330 (~$580.00 in 2022) each per day. The Tele2 project, "Everyday.com", was a commercial flop. Subsequently, while working as a stay-at-home father, Tallinn developed FastTrack and Kazaa for Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis (formerly of Tele2). Kazaa's P2P technology was later repurposed to drive Skype around 2003. Tallinn sold his shares in Skype in 2005, when it was purchased by eBay.[11][6]

In 2014, he invested in the reversible debugging software for app development Undo.[12] He also made an early investment in DeepMind which was purchased by Google in 2014 for $600 million (~$734 million in 2022).[13] Other investments include Faculty, a British AI startup focused on tracking terrorists,[14] and Pactum, an "autonomous negotiation" startup based in California and Estonia.[15]

According to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, Tallinn loaned Sam Bankman-Fried about $100 million (~$115 million in 2022), and had recalled the loan by 2018.[16]

He is married, with children.

Other tenures[edit]

Tallinn is a participant and donator to the effective altruism movement.[20][21] He donated over a million dollars to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute since 2015.[22] His initial donation when co-founding the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk in 2012 was around $200,000 (~$253,273 in 2022).[6]


Tallinn strongly promotes the study of existential risk and has given numerous talks on this topic.[23] His main worries are related to artificial intelligence, unknowns coming from technological development, synthetic biology and nanotechnology.[24][25] He believes humanity is not spending enough resources on long-term planning and mitigating threats that could wipe us out as a species.[26] He has been a supporter of the Rationalist movement.[27] He has also contributed to Chatham House, supporting their work on the nuclear threat.


  1. ^ "Jaan Tallinn, Curriculum Vitae". Tartu Ülikool Sihtasutus. May 2012. Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  2. ^ "Jaan Tallinn at Ambient Sound Investments". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  3. ^ "Billionaires bet on Brussels to save them from AI singularity". Politico. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  4. ^ "'Building AI is like launching a rocket': Meet the man fighting to stop artificial intelligence destroying humanity". ZDNET. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  5. ^ Lewsey, Fred (25 November 2012). "Humanity's last invention and our uncertain future". Research News. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Hvistendahl, Mara (28 March 2019). "Can we stop AI outsmarting humanity?". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  7. ^ "Future of Life Institute".
  8. ^ "Elon Musk Donates $10M To Make Sure AI Doesn't Go The Way Of Skynet". Mashable. 2015. Retrieved 21 Jun 2015.
  9. ^ "Elon Musk spends $10 million to stop robot uprising (+video)". Christian Science Monitor. 2015. Retrieved 21 Jun 2015.
  10. ^ "Elon Musk: Future of Life Institute Artificial Intelligence Research Could be Crucial". Bostinno. Retrieved 5 Jun 2015.
  11. ^ ""How can they be so good?": The strange story of Skype". Ars Technica. 3 September 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Skype Co-Founder Jaan Tallinn Backs Reversible Debugging Startup Undo Software". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  13. ^ Shead, Sam. "The Skype Mafia: Who Are They And Where Are They Now?". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  14. ^ Field, Matthew; Boland, Hannah (29 November 2019). "Guardian venture arm invests millions in terrorist tracking AI start-up". The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  15. ^ Williams, Joe (2020). "Walmart is about to let machines negotiate contracts with some suppliers, and it's a glimpse into the future of supply chains in a post-coronavirus world". Business Insider. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  16. ^ Zuckerman, Patricia Kowsmann, Vicky Ge Huang, Caitlin Ostroff, and Gregory (31 December 2022). "Troubles at Sam Bankman-Fried's Alameda Began Well Before Crypto Crash". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2023-01-02.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ "Office of the President press announcement". Archived from the original on 2011-05-14.
  18. ^ Weber, Harrison (1 March 2013). "Peter Thiel-backed MetaMed thinks you should have your own on-demand medical research team". TheNextWeb. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  19. ^ Clarke, Liat (24 April 2015). "The solution to saving healthcare systems? New feedback loops". Wired.co.uk. Retrieved 24 May 2015. Tallinn learned the importance of feedback loops himself the hard way, after seeing the demise of one of his startups, medical consulting firm Metamed.
  20. ^ "Jaan Tallinn - Effective Altruism". Effective Altruism. Archived from the original on 2021-08-25. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  21. ^ "Skype inventor Jaan Tallinn wants to use Bitcoin technology to save the world". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  22. ^ "Machine Intelligence Research Institute".
  23. ^ "Jaan Tallinn on the Intelligence Stairway". YouTube.
  24. ^ "A Skype founder on biomonitors, existential risk and simulated realities". The Wall Street Journal. 31 May 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-02.
  25. ^ "Existential Risk: A Conversation with Jaan Tallinn". Edge Foundation, Inc. 16 April 2015.
  26. ^ "Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn on surviving the rise of the machines". Marketplace. 26 December 2012. Retrieved 2014-05-02.
  27. ^ "I'm Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype, Kazaa, CSER and MetaMed. AMA". Reddit. 7 June 2013.

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