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Linkedin, ebay founders back $27 million fund that will propel AI research in public interest

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LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar are amongst the backers of a brand new, $27 million fund that aims to back and propel research into artificial intelligence in the interest of the general public.

Other backers include The Knight Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Jim Pallotta, founder of the Raptor Group.

As per an announcement by the Knight Foundation,

Recognizing the vast potential of artificial intelligence to affect the public interest, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Omidyar Network, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and others have formed a $27 million fund to apply the humanities, the social sciences and other disciplines to the development of AI.

While Reid Hoffman and Omidyar Network have each committed $10 million sums to the fund, the Knight Foundation has decided to invest $5 million into the fund, which is being called the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund.

The fund will be working for the advancement of Artificial Intelligence in the public interest. Some of the challenges it will seek to overcome will include communicating the complexities of a field as potentially vast and unexplored as AI. It will also encourage innovation in the field that lies parallel to the public interest and work to minimize the harm caused by the development of AI to the human society — such as may be caused.

And AI can be dangerous, make no mistake. While many people laugh off the idea of a dangerous, human created intelligence as ridiculous — well, we are starting to have the, in the driver seat of our cars. And trust me, you would think AI are dangerous if a self-driving car suddenly decided that its deepest ambition would be to drive over you.

Corporations are pushing to be the first to occupy the self-driving car market and we have seen quite a few unfortunate accidents, that could have perhaps been avoided if only they were more cautious. While regulatory bodies are taking the introduction of AI very cautiously, another voice urging caution would do more good than harm.

Speaking on the topic and his $10 million investment in the fund, Reid Hoffman, Co-founder of LinkedIn and partner at venture capital firm Greylock Partners, said:

There’s an urgency to ensure that AI benefits society and minimizes harm. AI decision-making can influence many aspects of our world – education, transportation, health care, criminal justice, and the economy – yet data and code behind those decisions can be largely invisible.

Meanwhile, the fund will be housed at the Miami Foundation and will seek to include social scientists, ethicists, philosophers, faith leaders, economists, lawyers and policymakers into its activities, besides just engineers and researchers. It will also encourage positive activities that seek to maximize the positive impact of AI through fellowships, grants and awards. The fund will also keep attempting to raise more funds so as to widen the scope of its activities by taking up new funders.

It will also be partnering with other initiatives working in the field — starting with a partnership with AI Now.

At the outset, we are excited to work with AI Now on the planning of an exciting public event on July 10, 2017, and we will continue to build bridges and networks across other initiatives going forward.

A bibliophile and a business enthusiast.

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