AI: Rise of the Guardians

The recent movie, Rise of the Guardians, was a hit among young people. The general plot was that a group of fairytale creatures (Easter Bunny, Jack Frost, etc.) with some pretty fantastic powers become the guardians for children’s hopes and beliefs. These days the AI world seems to have its own set of super-powered guardians bent on protecting the software to be used by mankind.

Last summer, a group of US tech giants joined forces to agree to develop AI in a way that best benefits humanity. The group, known as the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, or Partnership on AI for short, has, as its goal, to address the challenges that come with AI as it develops.

The Partnership on AI are also hoping to capitalize on some of the unique opportunities that AI presents for the world, not so much financially, but from a humanitarian perspective.

Because AI and machine learning function by training and programming machines to learn from their environments, people are concerned that self-aware machines could be easily trained to gather information for evil rather than good. Of course this is a potential, and systems like Google’s DeepMind promise to expand the machine learning capacity to places where control may be difficult. The dangers of AI are pretty extreme because, as computers learn, they are able to learn ways around human security systems, preventing the protection of people and their personal data. In a world where machines are trained to interact with security controls, they may soon be able to access and manipulate security measures for nefarious purposes.

The plan of the Partnership on AI is to ensure AI benefits people, to educate and help the public to understand AI, to research and dialogue regarding the ethics of AI, and protecting the security of people as AI ramps up. The goals, obviously, are good. The movement in the AI sphere has shown the world that the AI journey is just beginning, and the power that lies in the technology is evident.

This week, another 22 companies signed up to the Partnership on AI, including some big players including Intel, eBay, Salesforce and Sony, as well as some other major market movers like McKinsey. The plan is that, with the larger scope of partners in the field, the group will be able to launch activities that are associated with its stated goals.  The group made clear that, ”These new partners strengthen and broaden our representation, helping to fulfill our goal to build a diverse, balanced, and global set of perspectives on AI.”

As the group continues to grow, it seems clear that they represent a sort of policing body apart from federal governments and that their goal is to protect the technology from people, and protect people from the technology.

While the goal is good, and while these really are the main market players, it is nevertheless a bit eerie. When a group of businesses are able to shape public policy in such a direct way, it starts to feel like we have our own ‘guardians’ who are here to keep the fairytale of AI in place and kick out the dark forces.

Jon Buck
Jon Buck
Jon Buck is based in Delhi, India. He enjoys researching, analyzing, and commenting on the cutting edge of the technology world, as well as palak paneer with veg fried rice.

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