Jan 27, 2017
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It seems that Apple’s Partnership on AI invitation got lost in the post

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Apple is the latest member of the tech community to be officially join the Partnership on AI as a ‘founding member’.

The group itself was founded back in September with the aim of managing the development of artificial intelligence. More specifically, the aim is to ensure the continued development of AI remains beneficial to individuals and society on the whole, and to minimize the unavoidable negative impact, such as careers becoming redundant.

Apple now joins the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Google and Amazon as a founding member, despite the group already being four months old. According to the announcement, Apple has been ‘involved and collaborating with the Partnership since before it was first announced’, which sounds like a mound of PR bullsh*t, but who are we to complain.

Alongside Apple, the group will also welcome OpenAI, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence & ASU, UC Berkeley, American Civil Liberties Union, MacArthur Foundation and Peterson Institute of International Economics. While the Apple introduction will grab the headlines, the rest are perhaps much more important.

Prior to the latest recruitment drive, membership was made up solely of the technology companies. The ambitions of the group on the whole was wider than just technology development, it has set out a wider responsibility to oversee other areas such as societal, cultural and economic impact. It’s all well and good saying objectives will be so universal, but let’s honest, these are technology companies who are chasing profits; it would have probably been very self-serving.

However, with the latest members who, will sit on the Board of Directors, the self-serving interests become much broader. Deirdre Mulligan from UC Berkeley is a legal expert. Carol Rose, from the American Civil Liberties Union, works to defend the rights set forth in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Eric Sears leads MacArthur’s work to address the social and rights-based implications of new and emerging technologies. Jason Furman from the Peterson Institute for International Economics was President Obama’s chief economist.

One of the concerns of many AI critics has been the negative impact of AI on certain professions, taxi drivers for example. Once AI and autonomous vehicles have been perfected, will there be any need for taxi drivers? Probably not, a piece of software could probably do it better. But was is to be done with the millions of taxi drivers who are now redundant, some of which will be too old to retrain but not old enough for state pensions. How will these individuals support themselves?

These are some of the questions which the industry needs to ask governments around the world. Bureaucracy has a habit of falling behind the development of technology, but in this case, it cannot be allowed to happen. The new appointments to the Board of Directors should, in theory, keep the tech companies honest, making sure they are working to minimize the negative impacts of AI on society on the whole.

The breadth of experience involved in the management and activities of the Partnership on AI is far more wide reaching that simply the technical development. With these individuals involved it is now much more feasible the work will focus on making AI work for society, not just improving a money making tool for the technology companies. It’s an encouraging sign.

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