Centre for Internet & Society

The non-profit artificial intelligence organization added new groups into its fold, and announced initiatives on developing AI best practices and harnessing the technology for social good.

The blog post by Alison DeNisco was published in TechRepublic on May 17, 2017.

As artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly enters every part of our lives, from chatbots to self-driving cars to office data analysis programs, questions remain about how this technology will impact our future in terms of jobs, safety, and society.

In September 2016, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, and Google announced the creation of a "Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society" (Partnership on AI), a nonprofit formed to "study and formulate best practices on AI technologies, to advance the public's understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society." Apple joined the partnership as a founding member in January 2017.

On Tuesday, the Partnership on AI shared a blog post with updates on the group's progress. Some 22 new organizations are joining the partnership, and more are expected to join in the future, according to the post. Eight are for-profit partners: eBay, Intel, McKinsey & Company, Salesforce, SAP, Sony, Zalando, and Cogitai.

Meanwhile, 14 are non-profits: The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, AI Forum of New Zealand, Center for Democracy & Technology, Centre for Internet and Society-India, Data & Society Research Institute, Digital Asia Hub, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Future of Humanity Institute, Future of Privacy Forum, Human Rights Watch, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, UNICEF, Upturn, and the XPRIZE Foundation.

"Together with the founding companies and our existing non-profit Partners (AAAI, ACLU, and OpenAI), these new Partners strengthen and broaden our representation, helping to fulfil our goal to build a diverse, balanced, and global set of perspectives on AI," the post stated.

Notable representatives from these organizations include Dr. Hiroaki Kitano, head of Sony Computer Science Laboratories and a world expert on AI robotics and human-AI collaboration, and Chris Fabian of UNICEF's Office of Innovation, who leads a group of technologists who apply machine learning, data science, and AI to societal problems.

Partnership on AI also announced plans to launch a set of initiatives based on its thematic pillars: Safety-critical AI; fair, transparent, and accountable AI; collaboration between people and AI systems; AI, labor, and the economy; social and societal influences of AI; AI and social good; and special initiatives. These early programs will focus on:

  • Topic-specific and sector-specific Working Groups to research and formulate best practices
  • The creation of a Civil Society Fellowship program aimed at assisting people at non-profits and NGOs who wish to collaborate on topics in AI and society
  • The formation of a cross-conference "AI, People, and Society" Best-Paper Award
  • The start of an AI Grand Challenges series to stimulate aspirational efforts in harnessing AI to address some of the most pressing long-term social and societal issues

The partners will work together to shape each initiative, and the group will share more information about each project soon, according to the blog post. The group also announced that it is in the process of appointing an executive director, who will oversee the organization's day-to-day operations.

Partnership on AI is not the only group examining the impact AI will have on our world. Elon Musk founded an $11 million AI safety program for funding researchers, and Eric Horvitz of Stanford University is leading the One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence. The White House released two reports in 2016 on preparing for the future of AI, and the effect of AI and automation on the economy. And a US Senate Committee also met last year to discuss the current state of AI, and its potential impact on policy and commerce.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. The nonprofit Partnership on AI, founded by Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Google, and Apple, recently announced that it was adding 22 new organizations to its ranks to research AI and formulate best practices around the technology.
  2. The partnership also announced several initiatives, including working groups to research and create best practices, and a challenge series to inspire people to use AI to address social issues.
  3. Partnership for AI is expected to release more information on each initiative soon, as well as appoint an executive director.
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