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Top tech firms have formed an AI supergroup to make sure robots are good

Lynsey Barber
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'Alpha' Robots Dance In The Sixth Shandong Cultural Industries Fair
Robots for good: Tech firms want to promote the benefits of AI (Source: Getty)

The world's top tech firms, including Google's DeepMind, Facebook and Amazon, have formed the tech equivalent of a musical supergroup, joining forces to ensure the ethical development of artificial intelligence and "advance public understanding" of the technology which is increasingly working its way into our lives.

The group, Partnership on AI, will connect academics, policy experts, and non-profits alongside businesses, which also include Microsoft and IBM, to hot house best practice in the burgeoning technology being used to help solve world health problems and reduce energy consumption - an industry expected to be worth $9.2bn by 2019.

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"The objective of the Partnership on AI is to address opportunities and challenges with AI technologies to benefit people and society," the group said, outlining its goals.

"Together, the organisation’s members will conduct research, recommend best practices, and publish research under an open license in areas such as ethics, fairness, and inclusivity; transparency, privacy, and interoperability; collaboration between people and AI systems; and the trustworthiness, reliability, and robustness of the technology. It does not intend to lobby government or other policymaking bodies."

The five tech groups will fund the project as well as provide resources for research and expects more experts and groups working on AI technology to join the partnership in future.

Top experts in tech and science have sounded warnings over the rise of robot technology, including Stephen Hawking, entrepreneur Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Hawking and Musk were even awarded the luddite of the year award for their "alarmist" warnings on the matter.

Meanwhile AI's hand in increasing automation has associated the technology with the loss of jobs and the sheer power of AI to collect and understand information has caused concern among privacy campaigners.

Read more: Phew! Facebook's AI chief says intelligent machines are not a threat to humanity

However, the new group aims to dispel these myths and the image of killer and controlling robots from movies such as Terminator and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

British entrepreneur and co-founder of DeepMind Demis Hassabis said it was "a very important step towards the ethical and responsible use of AI for the benefit of everyone".

The group has formulated eight key tenets it should follow, including addressing some of the challenges it faces such as protecting privacy and opposing the development of AI that would violate international conventions on human rights and ensuring they "do no harm".

1. We will seek to ensure that AI technologies benefit and empower as many people as possible.
2.

We will educate and listen to the public and actively engage stakeholders to seek their feedback on our focus, inform them of our work, and address their questions.

3. We are committed to open research and dialogue on the ethical, social, economic, and legal implications of AI.
4. We believe that AI research and development efforts need to be actively engaged with and accountable to a broad range of stakeholders.
5. We will engage with and have representation from stakeholders in the business community to help ensure that domain-specific concerns and opportunities are understood and addressed.
6. We will work to maximise the benefits and address the potential challenges of AI technologies.
7. We believe that it is important for the operation of AI systems to be understandable and interpretable by people, for purposes of explaining the technology.
8. We strive to create a culture of cooperation, trust, and openness among AI scientists and engineers to help us all better achieve these goals.

Top leaders in the AI field are among the group's founders: Amazon's director of machine learning Ralf Herbrich; DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman; Google senior research scientist and co-founder of Google Brain Greg Corrado; Facebook's director of research Yann LeCunn; IBM research scientist Francesca Rossi; and Microsoft research lab director Eric Horvitz.

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