Biz Break: Facebook, Alphabet among tech leaders working on ethical A.I. guidelines

Top Of The Order:  

Playing Nice: It’s safe to say that there is a lot of competition among the biggest names in the tech sector. That’s no surprise. For example, when you have the likes of Facebook and Google battling over the same advertising bucks, there isn’t going to be a lot of sympathy between rivals.

But that doesn’t mean the big bullies on the playground still can’t find a way to get along from time to time, does it?

We’re about to see how some of those leaders can work together, as Facebook, Google parent company Alphabet, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon have been getting together to work out a slate of ethical guidelines to apply to artificial intelligence. The growth of A.I. has gotten a lot of attention of late, in particular with regards to the race to develop so-called self-driving cars, and the involvement of everyone from Ford, to Uber, to chipmaker Nvidia.

The group, which is a very loose affiliation, is said to be working on rules that would apply to artificial intelligence to ensure such technologies are used to benefit people and not cause harm. According to the New York Times, the group doesn’t have an official name yet, nor has it nailed down any actual guidelines for its purposes.

Middle Innings: 

No Taxes For Us, Please: Earlier this week, the European Commission slapped Apple with a back-tax bill of $14.5 billion related to taxes that the EC says Apple owes the government of Ireland. Naturally, Apple has said it will appeal the decision, and Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook basically said if it gets stuck with the bill, that could jeopardize the approximately 6,000 Apple jobs in Ireland, and who knows how many others in Europe.

Normally, governments love to collect taxes. And if you don’t think so, just see what the Internal Revenue Service has to say if you don’t pay yours by next April 15. But nothing about this situation is normal, including the government of Ireland’s response to the EC’s ruling.

On Friday, the Irish government said it would join Apple in its appeal of the tax bill. The country has even said it doesn’t want the largesse that would come from Apple.

The main reasons Ireland is siding with Apple are practical. The country doesn’t want Brussels (the European Union capital) dictating how Ireland applies its corporate tax policies, which offer low rates to businesses to locate operations in the country. For Ireland, it seems like it would rather have the jobs those companies provide than to nickel and dime them over a few billion bucks in taxes.

Bottom Of The Lineup:

Here’s a look at how some leading Silicon Valley stocks did Friday…

Movin’ On Up: Gains came from Harmonic, QuinStreet, Rovi, Jive Software and Palo Alto Networks.

In The Red: Verifone Systems shares fell more than 16 percent after the maker of credit card and electronic-payment technology products cut its earnings and sales forecast for the year. Other decliners included GoPro,  Aviat Networks, Abaxis and Solar City.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.4 percent to 5,249.9.

The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.4 percent to end the week at 18,491.96.

And the broad-based Standard & Poor’s 500 Index also rose 0.4 percent to 2,179.98.

Quote Of The Day: “You have to come out as prepared as you can and play together the best we can.” — Washington State University football coach Mike Leach. The Cougars host Eastern Washington in their season opener Saturday. (Full disclosure: I am a Wazzu alumni and will openly support the Cougars here and elsewhere. Sorry, Cal and Stanford.)

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Photo: Outside Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park in December 2015. Facebook, Alphabet, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon are said to be working together on a slate of ethical guidelines for the development and use of artificial intelligence technologies. (John Green/Bay Area News Group)


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  • DoctorJay

    The heck with Cal and Stanford. The Cougars will more than meet its match in the Huskies. They will be fighting like, oh, cats and Dawgs!