LinkedIn And eBay Founders Throw £16.5m At AI Ethics Fund

Founders of LinkedIn and eBay are donating $20 million (£16.5m) to the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Fund designed to address the potential for AI to both benefit and harm society.

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn and Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, joined other investors, such as the Knight Foundation, to bankroll the fund, which will engage non-technical people, such as lawyers and religious leaders to discuss the impact AI will have on jobs and the way its development needs to be approached from an ethical, societal and humanitarian viewpoint.

They will tackle issues such as avoiding programing bias into smart systems or the concerns over who governs and is responsible for the actions of AI.

AI and ethics

“There’s an odd assumption that artificial intelligence agents and machine learning, which enable computers to make decisions like humans and for humans, is a neutral process,” said Knight Foundation president Alberto Ibarguen, explaining the need for such an AI fund. “It’s not.”

“Even algorithms have parents, and those parents are computer programmers, with their values and assumptions. Those values – who gets to determine what they are and who controls their application – will help define the digital age.

“Algorithms can reflect standards of beauty, standards of morality, standards of acceptable behaviour. As computers learn and adapt from new data, those initial algorithms can shape what information we see, how much money we can borrow, what health care we receive, and more.”

In total $27 million (£22m) will be provided to the fund, which will be overseen by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, all with the goal of having AI developed shaped by more than just software engineers and technical researchers.

In the UK the Alan Turing Institute takes care of such issues, having launched its own ethics board, following criticism levied at the government for the lack of planning or strategy for the potential impact the growing development of AI can have on Britain.

And such funds and organisations are apt given how CES 2017 played host to a rising focus on smart virtual assistant and cars coupled with AI systems.

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Roland Moore-Colyer

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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