Amazon, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft last month announced the creation of the Partnership on AI, a nonprofit organization dedicated to formulating best practices in artificial intelligence and educating the public about the field.
The group will invite academics, other nonprofits, and specialists in policy and ethics to join its board, which will represent corporate and noncorporate members equally.
The partnership will conduct research, recommend best practices, and publish research under an open license. It will address topics such as ethics, fairness and inclusivity, transparency, privacy, and interoperability collaboration between people and AI systems, as well as AI technology’s trustworthiness, reliability and robustness.
There are no plans to lobby government or other policymaking bodies.
Discussions with professional and scientific organizations such as the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, as well as nonprofit research groups including the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, an AI research organization set up by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, were ongoing, the partnership said.
A Time of Great Turmoil
Salesforce and Apple are notably missing from the group’s roster.
Salesforce recently announced Einstein, designed to embed AI in all of its offerings. Apple just purchased machine learning and AI startup Turi.
“Salesforce may have been locked out by Microsoft,” speculated Ray Wang, a principal analyst at Constellation Research.
Apple “tends to take a go-it-alone strategy, though they’ve worked closely with partners like IBM,” he added.
As for the smaller players, “the concept started with bringing a few anchor vendors into the alliance and then growing it from there,” Wang explained. “Right now we’re in an era of AI babel. The machine learning algorithms, neural net designs, and data standards are a cacophony of hell.”
We’re at an inflection point in the progress of AI, according to Frost & Sullivan. Breakthroughs in deep learning due to more data, faster processing and better algorithms have led to dramatic improvements in computer vision, natural language processing and robotic motion systems. All of the fundamentals are in place for AI to revolutionize every business in every industry.
“I think the participants are thinking in terms of controlling the Frankenstein factor that seems to be developing around AI,” said Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.
“People, especially the mainstream media, are getting concerned about the rise of the machines, and I think a lot of this is in the nature of PR,” he said.
Several universities have begun studying the possible dangers AI might pose. High-tech visionary Elon Musk and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking are among the people who have voiced concerns.
His concerns led Musk to help establish OpenAI, a nonprofit AI research organization that includes Amazon Web Services among its members.
We will “see a rise in digital ethics and a potential call by other alliances and organizations, like the EFF, for an international human right to privacy and digital and AI ethics standards,” Wang predicted.
Partnership on AI “should provide more rigor and initial standardization, particularly around safety protocols, definitions and certifications,” noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
“All of these are needed to validate [it] as viable and not just a time or money hole,” he said.
Its founding members “have deep AI experience,” Enderle pointed out, and therefore “should be able to establish rules and frameworks for the group far more quickly.”
Partnership on AI might help the advancement of artificial intelligence by convincing the public that governmental controls aren’t necessary, Frost’s Jude suggested.
“Governments are beginning to get interested in the technology,” he said. “There have already been hearings on AI in Congress, and the public policy types are clearly interested in potentially regulating this space. If the industry can demonstrate that in a sense, it’s self-regulating, that may keep the regulators at bay.”