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US tech giants look to call the shots on AI

Human brain in digital background / A concept of artificial inte

Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Google and Amazon have joined forces to form a new super-club with the aim of managing the development of artificial intelligence.

We do like a working group in the technology industry, if only for what they symbolise. The fact five of the worlds’ largest and most influential organizations have come together indicates artificial intelligence is a real thing, and there is progress being made.

The appointments are no joke either. Ralf Herbrich is Director of Machine Learning at Amazon, Mustafa Suleyman is co-founder and Head of Applied AI at DeepMind, Yann Lecun is the Director of AI Research at Facebook, Eric Horvitz is the Managing Director of Microsoft’s Redmond research lab. These are heavy hitters in the artificial intelligence community.

But they could have put a bit more effort into coming up with the name… Partnership on AI… It’s a good thing these guys are focusing on AI because quite frankly they are terrible at naming things.

The remit of the group is relatively simple, and very self-righteous. The goals are to ensure that applications of AI are beneficial to people and society. AI has the potential to dramatically impact not only the business world, but almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives. The new group will conduct research and promote best practices, to drive advancements in artificial intelligence.

The reality is the growth of AI has to be controlled. We’re not talking about machines rising up and taking over the world, but the integration of the technology needs to be done in a controlled manner to minimize the negative impact on society. The promise of AI has been to automate menial and repetitive tasks, which will naturally cause certain jobs to become redundant. In London we are used to the Underground staff going on strike but imagine what will happen when driverless trains are introduced on scale; they’ll lose their sh*t.

What about the wider transport industry? Transport for London operates a fleet of roughly 8,000 buses, which run on just over 700 routes across the city. We weren’t able to find the number of bus drivers, but it will be a large number. As of March 2015, there are 297,600 driver licences in England, operating 242,200 vehicles. Of course the promise of autonomous vehicles is years away, but the implementation of the technology will have to be done carefully, otherwise there will be a lot of p*ssed off and unemployed people.

As much as the group will be focusing on the effective development of the technology, it will also focus on the issues of how to correctly integrate into today’s world. The following statement can be found on the group’s website:

“Amazon, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft have been developing AI-related technologies for years. Beyond their work on core R&D efforts, research scientists at these companies have been thinking about and discussing the potential societal impact of AI systems and how potential concerns might be addressed.”

The formation of the group certainly adds credibility to the world of AI, and the stature of the individuals involved demonstrates it’s an important project for them at least. But it does come over as a bit of a clique. As notable as the names currently involved are, the absence of others is an interesting point. Apple, Twitter, Baidu, Huawei, Salesforce, Oracle, Intel, Samsung, Cisco and Ericsson are notable absentees. Were they not invited or do they not like to play nice? Maybe they’re forming their own AI club.

  • AI & Machine Learning World


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