So long Skynet: DeepMind sets up ethics committee

AI tech isn't "value neutral" and its impact must be controlled, organisation says

AI artificial intelligence

Alphabet's AI research unit, DeepMind, has established an ethics and society committee to help avoid a dystopian future ruled over by hyper-intelligent and potentially deadly machines.

DeepMind is part of an increasingly large segment of the tech industry that's starting to consider the potential negative consequences of AI, and looking to mitigate them.

While not quite in the group that believes malevolent AI is almost a given, such as Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and Elon Musk, the organisation attested that "technology is not a value-neutral, and technologists must take responsibility for the ethical and social impact of their work".

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"The development of AI creates important and complex questions. Its impact on society and on all our lives is not something that should be left to chance," said DeepMind Ethics and Society co-leads Verity Harding and Sean Legassick in a blog post. "Beneficial outcomes and protections against harms must be actively fought for and built-in from the beginning."

This is easier said than done in the field of AI, though, Harding and Legassick said, which is why the DeepMind Ethics and Society has been established. It will look at the real-world impacts of AI with the aim of both helping technologists put ethics into practice and also helping society at large understand the potential effects of AI. This latter aspect, they hope, will enable society to direct the course of the technology's development "so that it works for the benefit of all".

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Ethics and Society, while a DeepMind initiative, will be getting input from several external "fellows". These include Nick Bostrom of Oxford University's Future Humanity Institute and Strategic Artificial Research Centre, University of Manchester economics professor and co-director of Policy@Manchester Diane Coyle, and UN senior advisor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University Jeffrey Sachs.

"If AI technologies are to serve society, they must be shaped by society's priorities and concerns," said Harding and Legassick.

"With the creation of DeepMind Ethics & Society, we hope to challenge assumptions including our own and pave the way for truly beneficial and responsible AI," they concluded.

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