Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM team up to address fears about artificial intelligence

Facebook, Google and other tech giants have used artificial intelligence to develop self-driving cars, describe photos for the blind, power virtual assistants or complete other tasks.

But the technology — the topic of plenty of dystopian films and novels — has also drummed up fear and anxiety about a future where rogue robots outsmart humans or take over their jobs.

Now five major tech companies are teaming up to make sure artificial intelligence does more good than harm. On Thursday, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Google-owned DeepMind Technologies said they were forming a nonprofit called “the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society” to develop best practices around ethics, transparency, fairness, privacy and other issues.

“The possibilities for positively impacting a global society with advances in AI are numerous, ranging from connectivity, healthcare, and transportation. As researchers in industry, we take very seriously the trust people have in us to ensure advances are made with the utmost consideration for human values,” Yann LeCun, Director of Facebook AI Research, said in a statement.

But the release of artificial intelligence-powered products hasn’t always gone as planned this year. In March, Microsoft suspended its Twitter chatbot Tay after it started tweeting racist and sexist remarks. In July, a futuristic security robot at the Stanford Shopping Center was accused of knocking over a toddler and running over its foot. And for the first time, a Tesla driver using Autopilot was killed in a collision with a truck in Florida.

The Partnership on AI plans to conduct research, recommend best practices and publish its findings. The nonprofit does not intend to lobby government or other policymakers.

Members of the organization include: LeCun; Amazon’s Director of Machine Learning Ralf Herbrich, DeepMind’s co-founder and Head of Applied AI Mustafa Suleyman; Google Research’s Senior Scientist Greg Corrado; IBM Research Scientist Francesca Rossi; and Microsoft’s Technical Fellow and managing director of its Washington research lab Eric Horvitz.

Horvitz and Suleyman are interim co-chairmen of the nonprofit.

The organization is also inviting academics, non-profits, and specialists in policy and ethics to join its board.

Photo: Pepper, a robot designed by Softbank Robotics America is introduced to the media at B8ta, a startup consumer electronics retailer Thursday morning, Aug. 11, 2016, in Palo Alto, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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  • Edward Benes

    In the old days people feared evil spirits and the devil – now it AI …. the same psychological region of the mind repackaged for a modern time .

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