Why the biggest names in tech just formed an AI alliance

IBM Watson

Artificial intelligence (AI) is equal parts cool and terrifying. Yes, it's great to have machines become smarter so we can become dumber (we kid), but there are lots of unknowns and misunderstandings about what AI is truly about.

A new alliance between Amazon, Google/DeepMind, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft wants to change all that. The tech giants are forming a non-profit organization called the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, or the Partnership on AI, for short.

The group's aim is to advance the public's understanding of AI tech while at the same time formulating best practices for the burgeoning field. In other words, how to keep AI from getting out of hand.

"The objective of the Partnership on AI is to address opportunities and challenges with AI technologies to benefit people and society," the group says on its website.

"Together, the organization's 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 AI systems; and the trustworthiness, reliability, and robustness of the technology. It does not intend to lobby government or other policymaking bodies."

The group will actively research, advocate and educate around AI technologies, including machine perception, learning and automated reasoning.

Why form an AI group?

As more companies tap AI for their products and services, such as Facebook Messenger chatbots and Microsoft's Cortana personal assistant, there's concern, too, that AI can be abused.

Groups like OpenAI have already formed to tackle the simultaneous challenges of advancing AI and preventing it from harming humans. OpenAI is led by Tesla's Elon Musk, and counts Google and Amazon Web Services among its supporters.

The newly formed alliance is also keen on using AI to advance humanity, tackling monumental issues such as climate change, food, inequality, health and education. It's about more than ordering pizza, people.

The Partnership on AI is inviting academics, non-profits and specialists in policy and ethics to join its board, which will have an equal representation of corporate and non-corporate members, the group says. Founding members will chip in financial as well as research resources, and plan to share leadership with various parties.

"AI technologies hold tremendous potential to improve many aspects of life, ranging from healthcare, education, and manufacturing to home automation and transportation," the Partnership says. "Through rigorous research, the development of best practices, and an open and transparent dialogue, the founding members of the Partnership on AI hope to maximize this potential and ensure it benefits as many people as possible."

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.