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Tech Giants Form Artificial Intelligence Supergroup, But Not Everyone's In

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Tom Hale

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

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A tech-giant dream team of Google, IBM, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are joining forces in a bid to guide artificial intelligence into the future, under a project called Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society – which just so happens to sound like it was named by a robot.

The supergroup was announced on Wednesday, in a move that Eric Horvitz of Microsoft Research described as a “historic collaboration.”

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Whether it's fears of robots replacing all our jobs or a full-blown AI uprising à la The Matrix, the new realm of AI can seem a scary one. Just ask Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. This new collaboration seeks to address those fears, all while making AI the best it can be, both technically and socially. Through eight tenets, they laid out their action plan, which includes raising public understanding of AI, fostering interest, funding research, and eventually helping guide the future of machine-learning.

They also reassured people they have no intention of lobbying governments with their ample wallets.

Each of these companies will have a representative within the co-operative, although they hope to later include other representatives from academia, non-profit organizations, and experts in government policy and ethics.

“We’re in a golden age of Machine Learning and AI. As a scientific community, we are still a long way from being able to do things the way humans do things, but we’re solving unbelievably complex problems every day and making incredibly rapid progress,” Ralf Herbrich, Director of Machine Learning Science and Core Machine Learning at Amazon, said in a statement.

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"This partnership will ensure we’re including the best and the brightest in this space in the conversation to improve customer trust and benefit society. We are excited to work together in this partnership with thought leaders from both industry and academia.”

However, you may have noticed some big players aren’t coming to the party: Apple and OpenAI, Elon Musk’s venture into AI research.

Apple has been considered a bit of a “laggard” in the race to develop AI technology, Backchannel’s editor Steven Levy reports. While other rivals have been jumping on the bandwagon and pumping money into AI, Apple has tended to focus more on product design with a culture of secrecy. WIRED believes that OpenAI's role as an early-stage research and development project means it doesn't necessarily fit the bill.

The reasons why they haven't been included haven’t been officially disclosed, however it doesn’t appear to be anything too personal.

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“We’ve been in discussions with Apple, I know they’re enthusiastic about this effort, and I’d personally hope to see them join,” said Microsoft’s Eric Horvit, according to the Guardian.


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