UPDATED: Apple thinks different about A.I., will cooperate with others

Reports claim Apple will join cross industry A.I. research group to help build the standards of future machine intelligence.

Apple’s alleged decision to join competitors on the Partnership on A.I. research group shows it now understands that artificial intelligence can only succeed if competitors find some ways to work together.

UPDATE: Since writing this, Apple has confirmed this news. The company’s head of advanced development of Siri, Tom Gruber, has joined the Partnership on A.I. board. Much more info here.

Walled garden fail

There are lots of different technologies that contribute to A.I. Machine intelligence, sensor development, voice recognition, security and biometrics, pattern matching, neural networking and so many more.

[See also: Apple is teaching Siri to learn new tricks]

The challenge is that as we witness the emergence of what seems likely to be the most disruptive set of technologies since the first iPhone, players in this space must make their solutions compatible.

Think about it

  • No one wants connected vehicles to crash into each other just because they are running operating systems that don’t interoperate properly.
  • Nor will they forgive automated public transportation systems that crash if exposed to a signal from a passing device on another OS.
  • Who in their right mind wants automated power plants to be easily hacked because of lax security or a failed software patch?

Apple, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and others involved in A.I. development are beginning to realize they need to be compatible.

Apple clearly understands this as it now allows its A.I. research teams to publish research papers, engage in peer review and get involved in the cooperative nature of scientific research.

Partnership on A.I. has wanted to convince Apple to join it since it launched. Microsoft’s Eric Horvitz, one of the partnership’s two interim co-chairs, said last year “We’ve been in discussions with Apple, I know they’re enthusiastic about this effort, and I’d personally hope to see them join.”

It makes sense.

Any reputable scientist knows that cooperation and full disclosure of facts is critical to successful research. King Canute could not hold back the waves with ignorance as to their nature – he may have had a chance if he’d published what he knew and worked openly with others. He failed, and there still remain some ignorant of history.

This really matters

The iPhone and the smartphone technologies that followed it have indisputably transformed the way we live. Artificial intelligence is another step. It will add another layer of disruption. There is much to gain and much to lose.

A.I. is already everywhere. From tech support bots with voice recognition to facial recognition in Photos; from self-healing 4G networks to B/OSS data analytics systems analyzing business operations and churning out real time data.

Even vending machines with built in system diagnosis and the ability to call for supplies have some degree of AI.

Combining the different technologies, such as pattern matching, machine intelligence, neural networking and all others is expected to contribute to the creation of a connected infrastructure that’s more capable of rapid response to change than the humans it serves.

“As the technology of A.I. continues to develop, practitioners must ensure that A.I.-enabled systems are governable; that they are open, transparent, and understandable; that they can work effectively with people; and that their operation will remain consistent with human values and aspirations,” concluded the National Science and Technology Council in 2016. (Report is here).

Compatible signs

All the people at the A.I. party have slightly different slants on how to deliver these technologies. Apple, for example, has a focus on privacy and security; others focus on convenience and data mining.

The truth is that some kind of compromise between all these approaches is a likely and necessary outcome of any kind of joint approach to standards. Compatibility is critical.

To help boost compatibility, the Partnership on A.I. Research Group supports best practice, aims to build public understanding of the costs and benefits of A.I., and to provide a communication space for A.I. researchers.

The deep transformation A.I. is ushering in will likely impact every person on the planet.

If Apple were to continue the seeming isolation of its traditional walled garden approach it would be unable to contribute to the new laws of AI that will govern how these technologies are applied.

World changing challenges demand cooperative resolution.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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