the vast potential of artificial intelligence to affect the public
interest, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Omidyar Network,
LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and others have formed a $27 million fund
to apply the humanities, the social sciences and other disciplines to
the development of AI.
The MIT Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at
Harvard University will serve as founding academic institutions for the
initiative, which will be named the Ethics and Governance of Artificial
Intelligence Fund. The Fund will support a cross-section of AI ethics
and governance projects and activities, both in the United States and
Artificial intelligence and complex algorithms in general, fueled by big
data and deep-learning systems, are quickly changing how we live and
work—from the news stories we see, to the loans for which we qualify, to
the jobs we perform. Because of this pervasive but often concealed
impact, it is imperative that AI research and development be shaped by a
broad range of voices—not only by engineers and corporations, but also
by social scientists, ethicists, philosophers, faith leaders,
economists, lawyers and policymakers.
Hoffman and Omidyar Network each committed $10 million to the fund,
while Knight Foundation committed $5 million. With the MIT Media Lab and
the Berkman Klein Center, they will form a governing board to distribute
awards and facilitate other activities that provide meaningful links
among activities in the connective tissue between computer sciences, the
social sciences and the humanities.
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Jim Pallotta, founder of
the Raptor Group, have each committed $1 million to the fund, which is
expected to grow as other funders come on board.
“Artificial intelligence agents will impact our lives in every society
on Earth. Technology and commerce will see to that,” said Alberto
Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation. “Since even algorithms have
parents and those parents have values that they instill in their
algorithmic progeny, we want to influence the outcome by ensuring
ethical behavior, and governance that includes the interests of the
diverse communities that will be affected.”
“As a technologist, I’m impressed by the incredible speed at which
artificial intelligence technologies are developing. As a philanthropist
and humanitarian, I’m eager to ensure that ethical considerations and
the human impacts of these technologies are not overlooked. Omidyar
Network is participating in the fund to ensure that critical areas like
ethics, accountability, and governance, are considered from the earliest
stages of design,” said Pierre Omidyar, founding partner, Omidyar
Network, and a principal of the fund.
“There’s an urgency to ensure that AI benefits society and minimizes
harm,” said Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn and partner at venture
capital firm Greylock Partners . “AI decision-making can influence many
aspects of our world – education, transportation, health care, criminal
justice, and the economy – yet data and code behind those decisions can
be largely invisible.”
The fund seeks to advance AI in the public interest by including the
broadest set of voices in discussions and projects addressing the human
impacts of AI. Among the issues the fund might address:
•Communicating complexity: How do
we best communicate, through words and processes, the nuances of a
complex field like AI?
•Ethical design: How do we build
and design technologies that consider ethical frameworks and moral
values as central features of technological innovation?
•Advancing accountable and fair
AI: What kinds of controls do we need to minimize AI’s potential harm to
society and maximize its benefits?
•Innovation in the public
interest: How do we maintain the ability of engineers and entrepreneurs
to innovate, create and profit, while ensuring that society is informed
and that the work integrates public interest perspectives?
•Expanding the table: How do we
grow the field to ensure that a range of constituencies are involved
with building the tools and analyzing social impact?
“AI’s rapid development brings along a lot of tough challenges,” said
Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab. “For example, one of the most
critical challenges is how do we make sure that the machines we ‘train’
don’t perpetuate and amplify the same human biases that plague society.
How can we best initiate a broader, in-depth discussion about how
society will co-evolve with this technology, and connect computer
science and social sciences to develop intelligent machines that are not
only ‘smart,’ but also socially responsible?”
The Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund will
complement and collaborate with existing efforts, such as the upcoming
public symposium “AI Now,” which is scheduled for July 10 at MIT Media
Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society will
leverage the strengths of existing programs and pursue joints efforts
that reinforce cross-disciplinary work and encourage collaboration, both
in the United States and internationally. Activities that the fund will
support include a joint AI fellowship program supporting people who are
working to keep human issues at the forefront of AI, including working
with international efforts that are underway; convening and supporting a
network of people and institutions working to maximize the benefits of
AI; funding expert research and other sectors affected by AI’s
implications; and a thematic focus on the issues of artificial
intelligence for the 2018 “Assembly” program.
“The thread running through these otherwise-disparate phenomena is a
shift of reasoning and judgment away from people," said Jonathan
Zittrain, co-founder of the Berkman Klein Center and Professor of Law
and Computer Science at Harvard University. “Sometimes that's good, as
it can free us up for other pursuits and for deeper undertakings. And
sometimes it’s profoundly worrisome, as it decouples big decisions from
human understanding and accountability. A lot of our work in this area
will be to identify and cultivate technologies and practices that
promote human autonomy and dignity rather than diminish it.”