How can humanity ensure that the powerful tools of AI are used ethically?

Amid a mounting tide of concerns over the implications of AI on society, a new fund backed by well-known tech industry figures along with Harvard and MIT has been formed. The Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence fund will start out with $27 million to fund work that “advances the development of ethical AI in the public interest.” Machine learning, task automation and robotics are already widely used in business. These and other AI technologies are about to multiply, and we look at how organizations can best take advantage of them.

Why is a fund needed?SwissCognitive Logo

Omidyar Network laid out the case in a press release: Artificial intelligence and complex algorithms in general, fueled by big data and deep-learning systems, are quickly changing how we live and work–from the news stories we see, to the loans for which we qualify, to the jobs we perform. Because of this pervasive but often concealed impact, it is imperative that AI research and development be shaped by a broad range of voices–not only by engineers and corporations, but also by social scientists, ethicists, philosophers, faith leaders, economists, lawyers and policymakers.

Aims of the fund

The fund’s goals will be to develop the best ways of explaining AI to the public; ethical design frameworks for AI; to advance “accountable and fair AI” through proper controls; helping AI entrepreneurs and engineers thrive while serving the public interest; and by getting more constituencies involved with AI. Last year, AI took the spotlight perhaps more than any other tech trend. The rapid-fire pace of AI development represents risk that must be held up to scrutiny, MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito said in a statement: “For example, one of the most critical challenges is how do we make sure that the machines we ‘train’ don’t perpetuate and amplify the same human biases that plague society?”

Not the only fund there is

The fund isn’t the first organization to rally around AI and ethical questions. Last month, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers released an initial draft guide for ethical AI design. There’s also the Partnership on AI, formed by Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft […]