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The 5 Tech Giants Partner for an Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

Google, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft have unveiled Wednesday its first partnership around a major theme of Artificial Intelligence (AI). These five giants of the Internet and information technology will create together a non-profit organization “that will work to improve public understanding of Artificial Intelligence technologies and formulate best practices on the challenges and opportunities this discipline”, they said in a joint statement.

The organization, which will bring the ambitious name of “Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to benefit people and society” must collect both representatives from the five companies and from academics, ethics specialists, public affairs, and possibly other business experts. As the name suggests, it aims to promote the practice of responsible AI and safe.

The eight commitments

In January 2015, in an open letter to the initiative of the think tank Future of Life Institute, physicist Stephen Hawking, Tesla boss Elon Musk and dozens of researchers had warned of the dangers of Artificial Intelligence uncontrolled. Hawking even mentioned in various interviews that it could “lead to the extinction of humanity”.  A few months later, another open letter from scientists called for a global ban on “killer robots,” autonomous weapons systems able to fire without human intervention.

The partnership announced Wednesday night trying to answer the rise of these fears. It comes with a list of eight commitments:

  1. We will seek to ensure that AI technologies benefit and empower as many people as possible.
  2. We will educate and listen to the public and actively engage stakeholders to seek their feedback on our focus, inform them of our work, and address their questions.
  3. We are committed to open research and dialog on the ethical, social, economic, and legal implications of AI.
  4. We believe that AI research and development efforts need to be actively engaged with and accountable to a broad range of stakeholders.
  5. We will engage with and have representation from stakeholders in the business community to help ensure that domain-specific concerns and opportunities are understood and addressed.
  6. We will work to maximize the benefits and address the potential challenges of AI technologies, by:
  • Working to protect the privacy and security of individuals.
  • Striving to understand and respect the interests of all parties that may be impacted by AI advances.
  • Working to ensure that AI research and engineering communities remain socially responsible, sensitive and engaged directly with the potential influences of AI technologies on wider society.
  • Ensuring that AI research and technology is robust, reliable, trustworthy, and operates within secure constraints.
  • Opposing development and use of AI technologies that would violate international conventions or human rights, and promoting safeguards and technologies that do no harm.
  1. We believe that it is important for the operation of AI systems to be understandable and interpretable by people, for purposes of explaining the technology.
  2. We strive to create a culture of cooperation, trust, and openness among AI scientists and engineers to help us all better achieve these goals.

Several initiatives

The organization should “work to improve the public understanding of Artificial Intelligence technologies and formulate best practices on the challenges and opportunities of this discipline”, said the partners in a joint statement.

The five partners plan can be summarized into three axes:

  • First, they want to establish good practice in research by including among others: ethics, transparency and respect for privacy.
  • Second, they want to “educate and to listen” to the general public on this issue by helping less afraid of this technology.
  • Finally, the organization wants to create a platform for researchers and key market players to easily communicate.

Each company of these five partners is already actively working on Artificial Intelligence:

  • IBM developed Watson.
  • Amazon has Alexa.
  • Google is developing its program DeepMind behind the Alphago who distinguished himself by defeating the world champion of the game of Go.
  • At the beginning of 2016. Microsoft already has Cortana , the voice assistant as well as some chatbots more or less friendly.
  • Facebook relies heavily on Artificial Intelligence for the organization of the news feed or facial recognition.

Absentee size

The absence of two players in the market, and not least, however, challenge – Elon Musk who already launched a non-profit company Open AI to develop “Open Source” Artificial Intelligence that is “beneficial to humanity”; Apple is still the creator of the best-known intelligence the world, but perhaps not the most advanced.

Eric Horwitz, a Microsoft executive who heads the project for now. He revealed that the group had been in discussions with the firm at Apple: “I know they are enthusiastic about this initiative and I personally hope they will join us.”

“That initiative is credible, but from the big players, who have the data that the AI now feeds. We must not be naïve – they are forced to take a stand for commercial reasons, because otherwise they will be accused of all evils. They are also quite sincere, because the people who care for AI research in these companies were the best academic researchers in the last few years, and they used to be interested in the impact of their work. “( Bertrand Braunschweig)

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