Employees from five of the tech world’s largest companies have been actively meeting to discuss the long-term financial and ethical effects of artificial intelligence on the global economy. The group doesn’t yet have a name, but it does have a thorny issue on its mind.
The increasing sophistication and use of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are raising some long-term questions of ethics that society will eventually have to deal with.
Fortunately, five of the technology industry’s largest companies are already on top of it. Last week, The New York Times revealed that employees at Google’s parent company, Alphabet, were meeting with officials from Amazon, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft to discuss the long-term ramifications of AI on the public. The group is so informal at this point that it doesn’t even have a name.
“But the basic intention is clear: to ensure that A.I. research is focused on benefiting people, not hurting them, according to four people involved in the creation of the industry partnership who are not authorized to speak about it publicly,” the Times article stated.
The article, in highlighting the concerns behind the formation of the group, cited a Stanford University paper released by the school’s One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence, a group that plans to publish a series of papers discussing AI’s global impact over the next century.
One issue highlighted by the report is regulation, which could become more significant as AI technology matures.
“Faced with the profound changes that AI technologies can produce, pressure for ‘more’ and ‘tougher’ regulation is probably inevitable. Misunderstandings about what AI is and is not could fuel opposition to technologies with the potential to benefit everyone,” the Stanford report states [PDF]. “Inappropriate regulatory activity would be a tragic mistake. Poorly informed regulation that stifles innovation, or relocates it to other jurisdictions, would be counterproductive.”
The report, titled “Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030,” suggests that by following the examples set by the successful regulation of the technology industry on issues of privacy and the reliance of trade groups to set standards, those pitfalls could be avoided.
David Kenny, general manager for Watson, the AI division run by IBM, emphasizes the goal is not to ignore government, but to provide a thoughtful starting point for a disruptive industry sector.
“There is a role for government and we respect that, [but] a lot of times policies lag the technologies,” Kenny told the Times.