A Massive AI Partnership Is Tapping Civil Rights and Economic Experts to Keep AI Safe

whiteMocca/Shutterstock.com

The Partnership is now the most high-profile, comprehensive, and mainstream organization considering how AI will shape our future.

When the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society was announced in September, it was with the stated goal of educating the public on artificial intelligence, studying AI’s potential impact on the world, and establishing industry best practices. Now, how those goals will actually be achieved is becoming clearer.

This week, the Partnership brought on new members that include representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, the MacArthur Foundation, OpenAI, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, Arizona State University, and the University of California, Berkeley.

The organizations themselves are not officially affiliated yet—that process is still underway—but the Partnership’s board selected these candidates based on their expertise in civil rights, economics, and open research, according to interim co-chair Eric Horvitz, who is also a director at Microsoft Research. The Partnership also added Apple as a “founding member,” putting the tech giant in good company: Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Google, and Facebook are already on board.

The Partnership is now the most high-profile, comprehensive, and mainstream organization considering how AI will shape our future. It not only has representatives from nearly every major tech company that’s heavily invested in machine-learning research, but also has backing from organizations that routinely study the impacts of technology and bias on modern society. To succeed in its mission would mean organizing a nascent field, uncertain and fragmented in its view of how AI should be implemented, while establishing guidelines that match its members’ propitious rhetoric.

The Partnership’s most recent additions suggest it is also uniquely concerned with understanding AI’s ability to create (or mimic) disparity.

“In its most ideal form, [the Partnership] puts on the agenda the idea of human rights and civil liberties in the science and data science community,” says Carol Rose, the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts who is joining the Partnership’s board. “[This is] so the people who are developing machine intelligence are aware, mindful, and cognizant of the impact of their choices, because they’re not neutral choices.

“There’s a decision on, are you going to use artificial intelligence to perpetuate biases that exist in our human society? Is artificial intelligence going to be developed in a way that serves the 1% but not the 99%? Or instead, can artificial intelligence and [machine learning] be used to address deep issues of global climate change or poverty? Those are fundamental ethical and moral issues it’s important that the scientific community engage in. What they do isn’t apolitical, it’s deeply political.”

The ACLU has been doing similar work with universities like MIT and Harvard as a part of its Technology for Liberty initiative. Rose says that if the Partnership turns out to be toothless, she’ll back out and stop contributing.

The Partnership has also tapped Jason Furman, a veteran of the Obama administration’s efforts to draw attention (pdf) to the economic impact of AI and automation. Previously chairman of the Council on Economic Advisers under Obama, Furman is joining the Partnership to guide its consideration of AI’s economic benefits.

“I think we’ve had insufficient productivity growth in the United States,” Furman told Quartz. “I think AI is very promising in terms of the future of our economy. We need more [AI] than we’ve had to date, but we’re only going to have it more if people are comfortable with it—if we’re getting the positives and not the negatives. I don’t think that’s going to happen automatically, some of that will require best practices and some of that will require public policy.”

Also joining up is Eric Sears from the MacArthur Foundation, which awards grants for things like climate change and nuclear risk. “While there will be many benefits from AI, it is important to ensure that challenges such as protecting and advancing civil rights, civil liberties, and security are accounted for,” Sears says. “The Partnership is being set up to do just that.”

In a blog post on the MacArthur Foundation website, Sears also wrote that “the public interest challenges these technologies present are unlikely to be adequately addressed without philanthropy’s help.”

Other new members include OpenAI, a nonprofit funded by Elon Musk, Sam Altman, and Peter Thiel that will look to research technical questions and provide open access to knowledge in the AI community. OpenAI’s representative in the Partnership, Dario Amodei, previously contributed to research on AI safety at Google Brain.

The Partnership plans to fund research through grants that will separate its participants’ work from their respective companies’ corporate umbrellas. Founding companies will contribute on a multi-year basis, although the amount has yet to be disclosed. The Partnership has yet to appoint an executive director—that role and the first round of research will likely be announced soon after its board of directors meets for the first time on Feb. 3 in San Francisco.

Among major tech outfits, Apple is late addition, despite working with the Partnership from the beginning, according to Horvitz. The company will be represented in the Partnership by Tom Gruber, who leads Apple’s Siri Advanced Development team. Google will be represented by director of augmented intelligence research Greg Corrado; Facebook by its director of AI research, Yann LeCun; Amazon by its director of machine learning, Ralf Herbrich; Microsoft by the director of its research lab, Horvitz; and IBM by a research scientist at its T.J. Watson Research Centre, Francesca Rossi.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.