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Google, Facebook and fellow tech giants unite to decide Artificial Intelligence ethics

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David Cornish
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Artificial technology has the potential to change the world. It also has the capacity to leave a lot of people behind, serving only those who already hold money and power.

That, in part, is why the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have put aside commercial interests to form an artificial intelligence (AI) partnership dedicated to advancing the public’s understanding of AI and ensure its development is done safely, ethically, and transparently. 

It's hoped that the power of AI - computer systems that can "think", sift through data and solve problems with greater accuracy and speed than humans - will help provide cures in healthcare, improve education systems, revolutionise transport systems with self-driving machines and change manufacturing industries forever. 

So, what's the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society (PAIBPS? You'd have thought all that brain power would have come up with a better title, eh?) actually going to do?

As a non-profit organisation, it's got a board made up of both commercial types (with interests in keeping AI technology head in direction that'll make money and thus keep the whole new industry ticking along) and non-commercial types (academics, non-profits, and specialists in policy and ethics).

This team will "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."

One notable division in the group's founding principals is that it doesn't intend to become embroiled in lobbying governments or making national policies. It would appear that the tech companies would rather remain separate from the influence of governments - so long as their operating within the law. Also notable by their absence are Apple - who are said to be "enthusiastic" about the new effort - and Elon Musk's $1billion-funded OpenAI group.

“We’re in a golden age of machine learning and AI. This partnership will ensure we’re including the best and the brightest in this space in the conversation to improve customer trust and benefit society.” said Ralf Herbrich, the director of machine learning science and core machine learning at Amazon - which just launched its home AI hub Echo in the UK - in a press call for the group's launch.

 The partnership has already published eight tenants that outline how AI might raise the quality of people’s lives, outlining believes including:

  • We will seek to ensure that AI technologies benefit and empower as many people as possible.
  • We are committed to open research and dialog on the ethical, social, economic, and legal implications of AI.
  • We will work to maximize the benefits and address the potential challenges of AI technologies, by working to protect the privacy and security of individuals... and ensuring that AI research and technology is robust, reliable, trustworthy, and operates within secure constraints.
  • Opposing development and use of AI technologies that would violate international conventions or human rights, and promoting safeguards and technologies that do no harm.

So, take that potential Skynets of the future. Unless, you know, a group that isn't part of the partnership decides on making an AI war machine... but we're pretty sure Apple will just stick to shiny phones for now.

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David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

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