Back in September 2016, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, Google, and Microsoft created an artificial intelligence-focused consortium to discuss new advances and establish best practices in AI technology. Apple and OpenAI were two of the missing key players, both of which have now joined the consortium.
Apple’s Role Inside The AI Consortium
Even though Apple was one of the first to make “AI assistants” a mainstream idea that would then quickly be adopted by other companies, lately it has looked like Apple is falling behind in AI technology.
Part of the reason for that is that, unlike many other companies trying to develop AI as quickly as possible, Apple doesn’t want to do it by collecting ever more data on its customers. The company has made privacy a competitive advantage for its products, and it can’t easily turn back on that strategy now. (Apple makes most of its money from selling devices and not through advertising, so there are fewer reasons for Apple to want to collect all of that data anyway.)
Therefore, it needs to tread carefully with what data it collects. It also has to ensure that it collects data in a way that maximizes its customers’ privacy. That’s basically how Apple became one of the first to implement “differential privacy” mechanisms for its data collection, when it was previously only cutting-edge cryptography research.
Apple joining the Partnership on AI may positively influence the other founding members to also implement better privacy mechanisms when working with user data. Apple could also share its own privacy-focused research with the other members so they can adopt it more easily.
OpenAI Joins Board Of Trustees
OpenAI and five other independent groups also joined the “Board of Trustees,” which is supposed to oversee the consortium. OpenAI is a non-profit organization started by Elon Musk and others, and it could play a critical role in ensuring AI is democratized instead of being controlled by a few rich organizations. Therefore, it’s good to see that the group will have a say in what other major AI players decide to do with their AI technologies.
The other five independent groups include: Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence & ASU, UC Berkeley, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), MacArthur Foundation, and the Peterson Institute of International Economics.
The six independent members will have equal voting rights with Apple, Google, IBM, Amazon, and Facebook on the Board of Trustees. This is meant to create a balance between nonprofits and private corporations. The Board will set the direction and oversee the general activities of the consortium; an executive director will manage the day-to-day activities of the organization.
The first meeting of the Board of Trustees will take place on February 3 in San Francisco. More details about how other people and companies can participate in the initial program of research and activities will be revealed shortly afterwards.