Apple to Join AI Partnership
The Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society will now have a mainstream technology company, Apple, as its founding member. The product innovator will join hands with other founding members such as Amazon, Facebook, Google/Deep Mind, IBM and Microsoft. Other appointments are that of the inaugural board of trustees, with six new independent members at the helm. The addition of Apple to the member list is surprising, considering that the company is quite secretive about its strategic plans and actions. The board was launched last fall, and it is only now, after much collaboration and communication with the board, that Tom Gruber and other Apple leaders agreed to becoming a member.
The Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society was established with a mission “to study and formulate best practices on AI technologies, to advance the public’s understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society.” The announcement of the members was made in September last year, and it is only now that Apple has decided to join the force. It was however a key entity that provided inputs for the organization’s MoU and elements. The reasons for Apple joining in late could be many — first and foremost, Apple has always been secretive as an organization, and more so with its AI plans. In recent times, there have been backlashes against this veil of secrecy that seems to shroud the Apple culture. Yet, one thing is clear — Apple has seen AI as a huge focus area. The company hired Carnegie Mellon’s Russ Salakhutdinov in the capacity of director of AI research, a newly created position. It has also opened up over time, even changing a policy and allowing AI researchers to publish their work openly. This seems to be a move to join a larger AI-movement, and to extend a cooperative hand to others in the AI journey.
The AI partnership was conceptualized to bring together industrialists, academicians, non-profits, policy and ethics specialists involved in AI advancements. The partnership brings forth an open licensing mechanism, so that research, knowledge and best practices can be shared. Not only does it look at AI from a technology perspective (such as systems reliability or robustness), but brings in a wider lens of ethics, fairness and inclusivity, transparency, privacy, collaboration and security. Surprisingly, for this role, it does not involve government representatives or regulatory bodies in the process.
There is a lot of concern about the rise of machine intelligence, since it has widespread ramifications on social structures, and economic models of living. Experts such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have expressed apprehensions about the proliferation of AI. In fact, Musk established a forum called OpenAI, another non-profit research organization with members such as AWS.
Such partnerships make it possible to introduce more rigor and standardization especially with respect to ethical concerns. It is important that safety protocols, definitions and certifications be well devised to prevent an ethical fall-out going ahead.
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