The latest: Several nonprofits are among the latest members in the Partnership on AI, a group established to address the ethical and other challenges presented by artificial intelligence. The effort began with big companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, but now includes a growing roster of academic institutions and nonprofit groups alongside some of the biggest names in tech. LGBT rights organization GLAAD is among the new members, as is the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which was set up in 1970 as a think tank serving black elected officials. Joint Center president Spencer Overton said his organization is especially concerned with how AI could disproportionately impact employment in communities of color. Overton said that 27% of black workers are concentrated in just 30 jobs at high risk to automation.
The City of Orlando is no longer using Amazon to surveil its residents (for now). The Orlando Police Department and the city issued a joint statement today that announced they were no longer using Rekognition, Amazon's deep-learning technology that can identify every face in a crowd. "Staff continues to discuss and evaluate whether to recommend continuation of the pilot at a further date," reads the statement obtained by Mashable, which was issued as a response to the ACLU of Florida sending a letter of dissent to city-level officials. "At this time that process in still ongoing and the contract with Amazon remains expired." The City of Orlando did not end its partnership with Amazon as a result of public outcry, however.
Instead of merely selling copies of 1984, Amazon appears determined to help bring the dystopian classic's vision of widespread government surveillance to life. And Amazon employees are really not happy about it. In 2016, Amazon unveiled Rekognition, an AI-powered facial recognition software that scans videos or photos to detect people or objects. It can analyze a person's face to determine their emotions, identify 100 faces in a single photo, and track a person throughout a video even if they leave and reenter the field of view. In other words, it's a powerful surveillance tool, and government agencies and law enforcement are apparently two of Amazon's target customers.
Let's make one thing clear: one year isn't going to fix decades of gender discrimination in computer science and all the problems associated with it. Recent diversity reports show that women still make up only 20 percent of engineers at Google and Facebook, and an even lower proportion at Uber. But after the parade of awful news about the treatment of female engineers in 2017--sexual harassment in Silicon Valley and a Google engineer sending out a memo to his coworkers arguing that women are biologically less adept at programming, just to name a couple--there is actually reason to believe that things are looking up for 2018, especially when it comes to AI. At first glance, AI would seem among least likely areas of programming to be friendly to women. Writing in Fast Company recently, Hanna Wallach, an AI researcher and cofounder of the Women in Machine Learning Conference, said that only 13.5 percent of those working in machine learning are female.
Let's make one thing clear: one year isn't going to fix decades of gender discrimination in computer science and all the problems associated with it. Recent diversity reports show that women still make up only 20 percent of engineers at Google and Facebook, and an even lower proportion at Uber. But after the parade of awful news about the treatment of female engineers in 2017--sexual harassment in Silicon Valley and a Google engineer sending out a memo to his coworkers arguing that women are biologically less adept at programming, just to name a couple--there is actually reason to believe that things are looking up for 2018, especially when it comes to AI.
Earlier this month, the 97-year-old nonprofit advocacy organization launched a partnership with AI Now, a New York-based research initiative that studies the social consequences of artificial intelligence. "We are increasingly aware that AI-related issues impact virtually every civil rights and civil liberties issue that the ACLU works on," Rachel Goodman, a staff attorney in the ACLU's Racial Justice program, tells Co.Design. AI is silently reshaping our entire society: our day-to-day work, the products we purchase, the news we read, how we vote, and how governments govern, for example. But as anyone who's searched endlessly through Netflix without finding anything to watch can attest, AI isn't perfect. But while it's easy to pause a movie when Netflix's algorithm misjudges your tastes, the stakes are much higher when it comes to the algorithms that are used to decide more serious issues, like prison sentences, credit scores, or housing.
The Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) will be joining the Partnership on AI, a non-profit organisation founded by Amazon, Apple, Google/DeepMind, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft, with the goal of formulating best practices for socially beneficial AI development. We will be joining the Partnership alongside technology firms like Sony as well as third sector groups like Human Rights Watch, UNICEF, and our partners in Cambridge, the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. The Partnership on AI is organised around a set of thematic pillars, including Fair, transparent, and accountable AI, and AI and social good; FHI is will focus its work on the first of these pillars: Safety-critical AI. Where AI tools are used to supplement or replace human decision-making, we must be sure that they are safe, trustworthy, and aligned with the ethics and preferences of people who are influenced by their actions. Professor Nick Bostrom, director of FHI, said in response to the news, "We're delighted to be joining the Partnership on AI, and to be expanding our industry and nonprofit collaborations on AI safety."
We are at an inflection point in the evolution of artificial intelligence. For decades, AI has been incubating in research labs and at the same time capturing popular imagination with science fiction portrayals of AI. The reality is that thanks to a convergence of increasing compute power, big data and algorithmic advances, AI is becoming mainstream and finding practical applications in nearly every facet of our personal lives. Facebook identifies which friends to tag in photos, algorithms are improving medical diagnosis and saving lives, and GPS-based apps are predicting traffic patterns to optimize driving routes. The AI revolution is also taking hold in our business lives.
Artificial intelligence is a booming business in 2017, but one that also comes with significant baggage in the form of public misunderstanding, potential job losses, and fear. Last fall, A.I. competitors Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, and Google banded together to form the Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society, an industry-led attempt to get ahead of the many social, ethical, and economic issues presented by the advent of technology with increasingly human-like capabilities. Apple joined the group as another founding member earlier this year. On Tuesday, the Partnership on AI (PAI) announced nearly two dozen new members, including more of the tech industry's biggest names--Intel, eBay, Salesforce, and SAP among them--and many of the world's foremost A.I. research institutions, such as the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Also joining are nonprofits focused on digital privacy, human rights, and freedom.