Understanding the Public Interest Implications of Artificial Intelligence
January 27, 2017 | Perspectives

Examining and addressing the public interest implications of new and emerging technologies has long been a focus of MacArthur’s. As the Foundation continues to invest in select Big Bets and Enduring Commitments, we also seek to better understand and engage areas of technological change that have a broad and consequential impact on our programs and the world. The rapidly developing field of artificial intelligence (AI) and the constellation of technologies that fall within it is an important area of opportunity.

Across domains, AI technologies augment or replace human decision-making. This paradigm shift provides significant opportunities to help solve complex problems. However, the public interest challenges these technologies present are unlikely to be adequately addressed without philanthropy’s help to ensure their full consideration through research, policy and practice. The challenges include, but are not limited to, detecting and mitigating machine bias that can disproportionately impact historically disadvantaged groups; ensuring that AI systems are understandable and accountable; and protecting and advancing civil rights, civil liberties, security and safety considerations in the development and deployment of AI systems and technologies.

As part of our engagement in the AI field, MacArthur is pleased to play a role in the formation of the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (the Partnership). The Partnership is being established as an independent public charity with a Board composed of an equal number of company and non-company members. It is my privilege to serve on the inaugural Board as a philanthropic representative at the Partnership’s invitation and MacArthur’s request. The Partnership aims to be an open platform for companies, civil society, academics and others to rigorously discuss and examine the ways AI technologies are impacting society. It will support the creation of best practices; address issues such as ethics, privacy, and the trustworthiness of AI systems; and it will seek to broaden the public’s awareness and understanding of AI.

The Partnership is part of a nascent field of organizations and initiatives seeking to advance AI in the public interest. It will coordinate with others to strengthen the marketplace of ideas that collectively help point AI in a direction that benefits as many people as possible, while minimizing potential harms.

I look forward to continuing to share updates about MacArthur’s efforts to ensure a deep understanding of public interest technology issues that cut across all of the Foundations areas of work.  

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