Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds tremendous potential to have an impact on everything from healthcare, education and manufacturing to home automation and transportation. Then again, noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has expressed concern about AI, noting that although early forms of AI developed so far have already proved very useful, he fears the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans. Hawking and a host of scientists and entrepreneurs have also expressed additional concerns in a letter, titled “Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence: an Open Letter” last year.


With that in mind, I was interested to recently learn that Amazon, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft have announced they are creating a non-profit organization—named the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society (Partnership on AI)—to advance public understanding of AI and formulate best practices on the challenges and opportunities within the field. The objective of the Partnership is to, as the group explains in a statement, address opportunities and challenges with AI technologies to benefit people and society. The organization’s members will work together to conduct research, recommend best practices and publish research 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.


In a joint statement, Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder and head of Applied AI, DeepMind, and Greg Corrado, senior research scientist, Google, said they “strongly support” an open, collaborative process for developing AI.


“This group is a huge step forward, breaking down barriers for AI teams to share best practices, research ways to maximize societal benefits, tackle ethical concerns and make it easier for those in other fields to engage with everyone’s work,” Suleyman and Corrado write. “We’re really proud of how this has come together, and we’re looking forward to working with everyone inside and outside the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to make sure AI has the broad and transformative impact we all want to see.”


The organization’s founding members will each contribute financial and research resources to the partnership and share leadership with independent third-parties, including academics, user group advocates and industry domain experts. There will be equal representation of corporate and non-corporate members on the board. The Partnership also says it is in discussions with professional and scientific organizations, such as the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), as well as non-profit research groups including the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), and anticipates announcements regarding additional participants in the near future.


“These are truly exciting times for AI,” says Subbarao Kambhampati, president of AAAI. “The rapid research advances are expanding the scientific scope and day-to-day impact of the field, and are spawning enormous public interest. The time is ripe for a concerted job, of the kind this partnership promises, toward fostering the public’s understanding of how AI will augment and benefit our lives, and facilitating thoughtful dialogue about the responsible uses of this technology.”


The use of AI has significant potential for manufacturing and the supply chain. It will be interesting to watch the work of the Partnership on AI and other organizations as they address emerging challenges and opportunities for AI technologies.