Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Google is hosting a global contest to develop AI that’s beneficial for humanity

Some of the biggest hurdles in the field of artificial intelligence are preventing such software from developing the same intrinsic faults and biases as its human creators, and using AI to solve social issues instead of simply automating tasks. Now, Google, one of the world’s leading organizations developing AI software today, is launching a global competition to help spur the development of applications and research that have positive impacts on the field and society at large.
The competition, called the AI Impact Challenge, was announced today at an event called AI for Social Good held at the company’s Sunnyvale, California office, and it’s being overseen and managed by the company’s Google.org charitable arm. Google is positioning it as a way to integrate nonprofits, universities, and other organizations not within the corporate and profit-driven world of Silicon Valley into the future-looking development of AI research and applications. The company says it will award up to $25 million to a number of grantees to “help transform the best ideas into action.” As part of the contest, Google will offer cloud resources for the projects, and it is opening applications starting today. Accepted grantees will be announced at next year’s Google I/O developer conference.
Top of mind for Google with this initiative is using AI to solve problems in areas like environmental science, health care, and wildlife conservation. Google says AI is already used to help pin down the location of whales by tracking and identifying whale sounds, which can then be used to help protect from environmental and wildlife threats. The company says AI can also be used to predict floods and also to identify areas of forest that are especially susceptible to wildfires.
Another big area for Google is eliminating biases in AI software that could replicate the blind spots and prejudices of human beings. One notable and recent example was Google admitting in January that it couldn't find a solution to fix its photo-tagging algorithm from identifying black people in photos as gorillas, initially a product of a largely white and Asian workforce not able to foresee how its image recognition software could make such fundamental mistakes. (Google’s workforce is only 2.5 percent black.) Instead of figure out a solution, Google simply removed the ability to search for certain primates on Google Photos. It’s those kinds of problems — the ones Google says it has trouble foreseeing and needs help solving — that the company hopes its contest can try and address.

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