What Do Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and IBM Have in Common? A New Partnership

A team of heavy hitters has been assembled to tackle the rapidly emerging space of artificial intelligence.

A partnership between five tech giants—Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and IBM—will conduct research and recommend best practices on all aspects of AI systems, including ethics, privacy, and collaboration between people and systems.

The objective of the Partnership on AI is to address opportunities and challenges with AI technologies to benefit people and society. 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 giants’ newly formed team is called The Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society and it will feature a 10-member board, half of which will be occupied by a representative from each of the five founding firms.

“We’re in a golden age of machine learning and AI,” said Ralf Herbrich, the director of machine learning at Amazon, who will be Amazon’s representing board member. “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.”

AI technologies hold tremendous potential to improve many aspects of life, ranging from healthcare, education, and manufacturing to home automation and transportation. 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.

At least two notable companies are missing from the partnership: Apple and OpenAI, an Elon Musk-backed research outfit. Both companies are invested in advancing AI and could deliver significant contributions to the partnership. It’s currently unclear as to why they are absent from the partnership, but it has been noted that more companies may be added in the future.

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