Google, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft are forming an alliance on A.I. -- here's why

artificial intelligence robot brain network
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What do you get when you put Google, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft in a room together?

A new organization dedicated to the advancement of artificial intelligence, apparently. 

The five tech giants have formed a new nonprofit with the goal of using A.I. to benefit people and society (really, that is even in the groups name). The organizations are all already individually involved in A.I. research and with the new nonprofit are joining forces to make an even bigger impact. So what is this group, and what are its goals?

In IT Blogwatch, we prepare for our robot overlords. 

So what is this nonprofit? Dave Gershgorn has the background:

Facebook, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, and Google...[have] joined to create a educate the public about [artificial intelligence] and share industry best-practices on transparency and ethics. It’s named the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society (also...the Partnership on A.I. or PAI).
The partnership is built upon the notion that A.I. is a...scary invention that the general public doesn’ or understand...Common fears...the group wants to head off are that A.I. will eliminate entire industries that employ humans...or accidentally spawn super-intelligence that seeks world domination.

Sounds great, but how does this organization plan to do that? Tas Bindi fills in the blanks:

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 A.I. systems; and the trustworthiness, reliability, and robustness of the technology.
The organization's board...will include academics, representatives from other non-for-profit organizations, and specialists in policy and ethics...there will be equal representation of corporate and non-corporate members on the board.

Will Partnership on A.I. have any government activity? They say no, but April Glaser makes a very good point:

Artificial intelligence is considered...the future of computing...All of the companies involved in the nonprofit are pouring billions into artificial intelligence research.
While the...nonprofit says it doesn’t intend to do any lobbying, individually, these companies are all saturated with lobbyists that enjoy intimate relationships with policymakers...across the world.

Are any other companies involved in the alliance? Alastair Arthur names a few:

The partnership is...notable for the exclusion of both Apple and OpenAI...It is said that Apple was involved in early discussions so could still become involved at a later time.
Discussions with other A.I. groups are also underway, including with the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence...and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Any word on why Apple wasn't involved from the get go? Sam Shead says it was a calculated choice:

Apple has refused to join consortium...Apple is known for being more secretive than other tech giants and...tends to prefer to work alone when it comes to the development of new technologies. The company has been...building up its A.I. and machine learning capabilities and buying a succession of small A.I. startups.

So what is the end goal of the organization? Here is what the nonprofit cites as its purpose:

A.I. technologies hold tremendous potential to improve many aspects of life...from healthcare, education, and manufacturing to home automation and transportation. Through rigorous research, the development of best practices, and an open and transparent dialogue, the...Partnership on A.I. [hopes] to maximize this potential and ensure it benefits as many people as possible.

So what are people saying about an A.I. alliance between five of the biggest companies in tech? Chris Floyd is a little skeptical:

Man, this doesn't sound sinister at ALL.
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