5 Major Tech Companies Have Formed A Partnership On AI - Be Scared

Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft have formed the 'Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society.' I'm seriously doubting the last part of that mission statement... 

Notably, Apple has not been included, and this is hardly surprising given the current inadequacy of Siri, their only real venture into AI. Neither has Elon Musk's OpenAI, despite the fact that their aims seem pretty similar to the Partnership, although they do not operate for profit and Musk has expressed fears about AI in the past. 

Technologically, this is quite exciting - 5 of the most innovative players in technology coming together to advance artificial intelligence and apply it to making our lives better will certainly produce impressive results. However, ethically it is a much different situation.

Naturally, the companies involved have proclaimed that they will set ethical constraints on AI such as protecting individual privacy and 'implementing safeguards'. Unfortunately, the sad truth remains that private corporations cannot be trusted to act in the public good, as they are motivated principally by profit. 

To claim that these corporations are evil and want to strip our human rights away from us would be the domain of a conspiracy theorist, but it's entirely feasible that, for example, Amazon may use the results of this Partnership to manipulate us into buying more products, and almost certain that the members of the partnership stand to gain a lot from it.

Equally troubling is that the Partnership considers itself a formulator of best practices concerning AI. Surely a business interest group such as this will set regulations only to make itself more powerful? 

It would be much safer to pass the regulatory power to a public body or a government, especially given the track records of some of the companies involved: Amazon has a history of tax evasion, Microsoft is known for using anticompetitive business practices (e.g. Internet Explorer being bundled with Windows and impossible to remove) and Facebook were exposed for manipulating their trending feed to show only left-leaning stories.

Finally, the Partnership on AI's stated goal is simply to improve AI technology. It would stand to reason that if one were trying to hide one's motives, a good way to do this would be to be vague, as the Partnership has been.

This Partnership may well be a wolf in sheep's clothing.

It would be much safer to pass the regulatory power to a public body or a government, especially given the track records of some of the companies involved: Amazon has a history of tax evasion, Microsoft is known for using anticompetitive business practices (e.g. Internet Explorer being bundled with Windows and impossible to remove) and Facebook were exposed for manipulating their trending feed to show only left-leaning stories.

Finally, the Partnership on AI's stated goal is simply to improve AI technology. It would stand to reason that if one were trying to hide one's motives, a good way to do this would be to be vague, as the Partnership has been.

This Partnership may well be a wolf in sheep's clothing.