Partnership on AI Adds Corporate, NGO Members, Charts Initial Course

Artificial intelligence is a booming business in 2017, but one that also comes with significant baggage in the form of public misunderstanding, potential job losses, and fear.

Last fall, A.I. competitors Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, and Google banded together to form the Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society, an industry-led attempt to get ahead of the many social, ethical, and economic issues presented by the advent of technology with increasingly human-like capabilities. Apple joined the group as another founding member earlier this year.

On Tuesday, the Partnership on AI (PAI) announced nearly two dozen new members, including more of the tech industry’s biggest names—Intel, eBay, Salesforce, and SAP among them—and many of the world’s foremost A.I. research institutions, such as the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Also joining are nonprofits focused on digital privacy, human rights, and freedom. The full list of members is below.

The organization also outlined its initial plan of action, organized around seven “thematic pillars” (several of which hew closely to the AI principles agreed on by a gathering of researchers at the Asilomar conference earlier this year). The PAI pillars include safety, transparency, human-A.I. collaboration, economic and workforce impacts, and social and societal impacts.

After a recent board of directors retreat, the PAI plans: working groups to develop best practices by topic and sector; a fellowship for individuals at nonprofits and non-governmental organizations; an “AI, People, and Society” Best Paper Award; and a series of A.I. Grand Challenges aimed at “some of the most pressing long-term social and societal issues.”

The PAI is finding its organizational footing, but still has some big pieces missing: an executive director, for one.

While it was organized by the biggest names in technology and business, the PAI also aspires to be a “multi-stakeholder” organization and has welcomed into its fold the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy & Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Human Rights Watch.

It will be interesting to watch the degree to which these groups and their representatives to the PAI have sway over the organization’s direction, and the policy positions and best practices it puts forth—particularly on issues that could conflict with the business interests of its for-profit member companies.

PAI founding partners: Amazon, Apple, DeepMind, Google, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft

Other for-profit partners: eBay, Intel, McKinsey & Company, Salesforce, SAP, Sony, Zalando, Cogitai

Nonprofit partners: Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, ACLU, Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, AI Forum of New Zealand, Center for Democracy & Technology, Centre for Internet and Society—India, Data & Society Research Institute, Digital Asia Hub, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Future of Humanity Institute, Future of Privacy Forum, Human Rights Watch, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, OpenAI, UNICEF, Upturn, the XPRIZE Foundation.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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