Tech giants Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Google’s DeepMind, Facebook have joined forces to create a non-profit alliance called Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society that will work to advance public understanding of artificial intelligence technologies (AI) and formulate best practices on the challenges and opportunities within the field.

Academics, non-profits, and specialists in policy and ethics will be invited to join the Board of the organization.

The objective of the partnership is to address opportunities and challenges with AI technologies to benefit people and society. Together, the organization’s members 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.

The organization’s founding members will each contribute financial and research resources to the partnership and will share leadership with independent third-parties, including academics, user group advocates, and industry domain experts. There will be equal representation of corporate and non-corporate members on the board of this new organization.

Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow & Managing Director, Microsoft Research said:

“We’re excited about this historic collaboration on AI and its influences on people and society. We see great value ahead with harnessing AI advances in numerous areas, including health, education, transportation, public welfare, and personal empowerment. We’re extremely pleased with how early discussions among colleagues blossomed into a promising long-term collaboration. Beyond folks in industry, we’re thrilled to have other stakeholders at the table, including colleagues in ethics, law, policy, and the public at large. We look forward to working arm-in-arm on best practices and on such important topics as ethics, privacy, transparency, bias, inclusiveness, and safety.”

Who’s in…and who’s out

Interestingly it does not intend to lobby government or other policymaking bodies, yet members will presumably include legal professionals. After all, it’s likely that there will be significant challenges to the rule of law, at least in the developed world, as AI advances into all echelons of society and policy in a broad range of areas from health care to military analytics. The law in general has traditionally struggled to maintain pace with the rapid advancements of technological innovation.

Notably absent are Apple and Open AI, the non-profit research think tank created by Elon Musk in 2015, though it’s possible they will be late additions. It’s foreseeable that as AI develops as the next industrial revolution, preceded by IoT, that a number of watchdog organizations will develop to respond to the challenges of AI particularly in regard to changes to the workforce in some sectors and the social challenges like robotic ethics. The next few years will be a time of fascinating research and discussions for all.

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