In September the New York Times reported that the aforementioned tech titans were meeting to discuss an AI related initiative. Now we have confirmation that they were meeting to discuss an alliance. The alliance is called the “Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society”. It has a lot of goals aimed towards bettering the future of mankind and improving society as a whole. Specifically the agenda is to “conduct research, recommend best practices, and publish research under an open license in areas such as ethics, fairness and inclusivity; transparency, privacy, and interoperability; collaboration between people and AI systems; and the trustworthiness, reliability and robustness of the technology”. That’s quite a mouthful.
The organization will not be a lobbying body but instead carry on experiments and discussions in the field of AI for a better world for all. And it’s not like they’ll need significant lobbying on their side, they’re the biggest names in the world. Also, AI is everywhere in our lives right now from predictive text and auto-correct on our phones to the experimental self driving Uber cars in operation in Pittsburgh to the drones being used by Amazon for their delivery service. They hope to invite “academics, non-profits and specialists in policy and ethics” to join the discussion because AI entails deep philosophical implications on society that can’t be resolved just by the wits of cold, calculating scientists and engineers.
Each of the tech giants involved have a deep stake in AI. Google is using AI in its self driving cars and in its DeepMind division that showed earlier this year how it could make Google’s data centers 15% more efficient and save millions of dollars a year in power bills. Amazon is using AI in its drone delivery system and in the Alexa voice assistant, IBM is using AI in its Watson programme, Facebook is using AI to generate a newsfeed that is more tuned to what its users like and Microsoft is using AI for its digital assistant, Cortana.
The partnership has two interim co-chairs, Eric Horvitz from Microsoft and Mustafa Suleyman from Google’s DeepMind.
Apple & Elon Musk Are A No Show
Two of the most forward thinking names in tech are absent. Apple, the company that has poured millions in to its digital voice assistant, Siri, and Elon Musk, the visionary who has invested $1 billion in OpenAI, one of the biggest AI research labs in the world, have not joined this league of extraordinary companies.
Other significant absentees from the alliance are Intel and Twitter. The former recently unveiled the Joule development kit that is specifically aimed at absorbing information from sensors and cameras to control movement and action automatically, specifically for drones and automated vehicles.
While these companies were no shows, the AI alliance commented that they were in the process of inviting a lot of research labs and organizations that they hope would contribute to a better world for everyone. The emphasis seems to be on consensus specifically on ethical grounds which is why maximum participation from so many organizations is being encouraged.