Apple Just Got Involved in the Partnership on A.I. So What?

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On Friday, the Partnership on A.I. to Benefit People and Society announced that Apple has joined the organization as a founding member. The group, founded in September 2016 by Apple competitors Amazon, Facebook, Google/DeepMind, IBM, and Microsoft, is a nonprofit whose stated mission is to “work to advance public understanding of artificial intelligence technologies (A.I.) and formulate best practices on the challenges and opportunities within the field.” So why did Apple join some of its biggest competitors in this effort four months after its founding?

Aaron Tilley reports for Forbes that cooperation is crucial for Apple’s success in the current tech marketplace. Apple joined the group because the covertness with which the company had been handling its A.I. research has become a liability in recent years. “Apple’s secrecy has hurt the company’s recruiting efforts for A.I. talent,” says Tilley. “The company has been falling behind in some of the major advancements in A.I., especially as intelligent voice assistants from Amazon and Google have started taking off with consumers.” So it seems like simple business sense that led Apple to join the group.

The group’s latest announcement comes just a couple weeks after the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced their $27 million foundation, formed in partnership with eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, to “provide meaningful links among activities in the connective tissue between computer sciences, the social sciences and the humanities.” So at least for now, it sounds like the two groups are planning to do nearly the same thing.

In addition to Apple’s head of advanced development for Siri, Tom Gruber, Greg Corrado of Google/DeepMind, Ralf Herbrich of Amazon, Eric Horvitz from Microsoft, Yann Lecun from Facebook, and IBM’s Francesca Rossi, the Partnership also announced six new board members who aren’t from major computer technology companies.

These other board members come from non-profit organizations that are concerned with various aspects of the future of A.I. and how it will affect humanity. According to the latest announcement, these new members are Dario Amodei of OpenAI, Subbarao Kambhampati from the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence & ASU, Deirdre Mulligan of UC Berkeley, Carol Rose of the American Civil Liberties Union, Eric Sears from the MacArthur Foundation, and Jason Furman of the Peterson Institute of International Economics. All 12 members of the board have equal voting power, which is important because it balances out the board, the other half of which, as we’ve said, consists of representatives from for-profit companies.

So this group and the Knight group don’t seem that much different. As of now, neither organization has done much of anything except lay out their goals, but rest assured that Inverse will keep you up-to-date on any developments that come out of these two organizations.

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