Space & Innovation

Young Artificial Intelligence to Get Tech Nannies

Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft are working together to oversee research in A.I.

Amazon, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft have announced a partnership to address the benefits and challenges associated with artificial intelligence.

All five are deeply involved in artificial intelligence research. For example, Amazon offers web developers machine learning capabilities and sells the Echo, a voice-controlled, personal robot. Google has DeepMind, the machine that processes information like the human brain. IBM has Watson.

But like all intelligence, the artificial kind falls along a spectrum. At the bottom is weak A.I. (or narrow A.I.), which is a non-sentient program focused on a narrow task. Think of Apple's Siri.

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At the other end is strong A.I. (also called full A.I. and artificial general intelligence). It doesn't exist yet, but If it did, it would have the full range of human cognitive abilities and probably then some. A number of recent movies feature A.I. beings, including Her, Ex Machina, Chappie, and of course the 1984 classic, The Terminator.

Even before society finds itself having to deal with time-traveling, autonomous, killer robots, it should be developing best practices in this relatively new area of research. We've already seen versions of A.I. doing some pretty wacky things. Take Microsoft's Twitter bot, Tay, which in less than day began unleashing racist, inflammatory tweets and had to be deleted.

And so far, the A.I. at the wheel of self-driving cars hasn't proved itself perfect yet. A self-driving Teslacrashed earlier this year and two days ago, so did one from Google.

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Enter the nonprofit Partnership on A.I., a collaboration between Amazon, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft to "advance public understanding of artificial intelligence technologies (AI) and formulate best practices on the challenges and opportunities within the field."

According to the announcement, each company will contribute money and research resources to develop A.I. technology meant to benefit people and society. Any research conducted will be published under an open license for all to read and share.

The partnership is not the first of its kind. In 2015, OpenAI launched as did Future of Life, the latter of which goes beyond artificial intelligence, to look at biotech, nuclear and climate.

Research in these areas is inevitable. There are milestones to reach and challenges to overcome. Certainly A.I. holds the potential to improve human life, from automating our homes and jobs to helping us solve problems related to disease and poverty. The hope is to do that without terminating ourselves in the process.

H/T FastCo