The Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society on Friday announced that Apple, well known for its culture of secrecy, has joined the organization as a founding member.
The other founding members are Amazon, Facebook, Google/Deep Mind, IBM and Microsoft.
The group also announced the final composition of its inaugural board of trustees, naming six new independent members: Dario Amodel of Open AI, Subbarao Kambhampati of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, Deirdre Mulligan of UC Berkeley, Carol Rose of the American Civil Liberties Union, Eric Sears of the MacArthur Foundation, and Jason Furman of the Peterson Institute of International Economics.
They will join Greg Corrado of Google/DeepMind, Tom Gruber of Apple, Ralf Herbrich of Amazon, Eric Horvitz of Microsoft, Yann Lecun of Facebook, and Francesca Rossi of IBM.
The group plans to announce additional details sometime after the board’s Feb. 3 meeting in San Francisco, including how other organizations and individuals can join. It also will address initial research programs and activities.
The board will oversee general activities of the Partnership on AI, and an executive steering committee will commission and evaluate activities within the overall objectives and scope set up by the board of trustees. The board will appoint an executive director, who will oversee day-to-day operations.
The Partnership on AI, announced last fall, aims to advance public understanding of artificial intelligence and formulate best practices. It plans to conduct publish research under an open license on areas such as ethics, privacy, fairness, inclusivity, transparency and privacy.
The announcement of Apple’s participation is particularly significant in light of the company’s well-earned reputation for organizational secrecy. There recently have been signs of blowback against that corporate culture, both inside and outside of the organization.
Apple last fall hired Carnegie Mellon’s Russ Salakhutdinov as its first director of AI research, and he soon announced a policy change that would allow the company’s AI researchers to begin publishing the results of their work, a practice that previously had been out of bounds for Apple employees.
As for why Apple decided to join the partnership now, “Apple does things if and when it wants to, on its own timeline,” observed Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
“The company may also have wanted to see how the group’s members were organizing themselves, whether they were serious, and how sustainable the effort appeared” before it took that step, he explained.
Tom Gruber and others at Apple have been working behind the scenes, “communicating and collaborating” with members of the board since before it launched last fall, said company rep Jenny Murphy.
“Apple provided input into the organization’s [memorandum of understanding] and the organization’s tenets,” she said. “Apple wasn’t able to formalize its membership in time for the September announcement, but is thrilled now to be officially joining PAI as a founding member.”
It makes sense that Apple would join, as the partnership is about communicating AI to consumers and policymakers, noted Paul Teich, principal analyst at Tirias Research.
“Apple has been very secretive about their AI efforts until quite recently,” he said, “so this is another indication that Apple is trying to cooperate with the rest of the industry in presenting a common front regarding the promise of AI for non-technologists.”
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