How will the Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM alliance impact AI development?

Rebecca Lambert
Rebecca Lambert
By Rebecca Lambert on 03 October 2016
How will the Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM alliance impact AI development?

Last week, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook and IBM confirmed that they are working together to advance public understanding of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and will channel their insights through a new joint, non-profit organisation, named the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society (Partnership on AI).

Their aim is to “address opportunities and challenges with AI technologies to benefit people and society.” This means that together they will carry out research, recommend best practices, and look into areas such as ethics, safety, transparency, privacy, biases, and fairness.

Stakeholders from each of the five founding IT companies share their thoughts on the matter:

Eric Horvitz, technical fellow and managing director of Microsoft Research
“We see great value ahead with harnessing AI advances in numerous areas, including health, education, transportation, public welfare, and personal empowerment,” said Horvitz, technical fellow and managing director of Microsoft Research. “We’re extremely pleased with how early discussions among colleagues blossomed into a promising long-term collaboration. Beyond folks in industry, we’re thrilled to have other stakeholders at the table, including colleagues in ethics, law, policy, and the public at large. We look forward to working arm-in-arm on best practices and on such important topics as ethics, privacy, transparency, bias, inclusiveness and safety.”

Ralf Herbrich, director of Machine Learning Science and Core Machine Learning, Amazon
“We’re in a golden age of machine learning and AI. As a scientific community, we are still a long way from being able to do things the way humans do things, but we’re solving unbelievably complex problems every day and making incredibly rapid progress. This partnership will ensure we’re including the best and the brightest in this space in the conversation to improve customer trust and benefit society.”

Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder and head of Applied AI, DeepMind
Greg Corrado, senior research scientist, Google

“Google and DeepMind strongly support an open, collaborative process for developing AI. This group is a huge step forward, breaking down barriers for AI teams to share best practices, research ways to maximise societal benefits, and tackle ethical concerns, and make it easier for those in other fields to engage with everyone’s work.”

Yann LeCun, director of Facebook AI Research
“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. By openly collaborating with our peers and sharing findings, we aim to push new boundaries every day, not only within Facebook, but across the entire research community. To do so in partnership with these companies who share our vision will help propel the entire field forward in a thoughtful responsible way.”

Francesca Rossi, AI Ethics researcher, IBM Research
“Over the past five years, we’ve seen tremendous advances in the deployment of AI and cognitive computing technologies, ranging from useful consumer apps to transforming some of the world’s most complex industries, including healthcare, financial services, commerce, and the internet of things. This partnership will provide consumer and industrial users of cognitive systems a vital voice in the advancement of the defining technology of this century – one that will foster collaboration between people and machines to solve some of the world’s most enduring problems – in a way that is both trustworthy and beneficial.”

Interest in AI is undoubtedly on the rise. Last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke at length on the subject at his company’s annual Ignite conference. Microsoft veteran Harry Shum is also set to lead a huge new AI research organisation – the Microsoft AI and Research Group – involving over 5,000 computer scientists and engineers focused on the company’s AI product efforts.

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