Baidu joins global ethics partnership for AI technology

Donna Miller
October 20, 2018

Chinese search engine provider Baidu Inc. has become the first Chinese member of the US-led supergroup on artificial intelligence (AI) development, namely the Partnership on AI (PAI), to formulate practices and address the challenges of AI technologies, said PAI in an announcement released on Tuesday.

The initial financial grant for this newly formed organisation came from organization's founding members, each of whom will contribute financial and research resources to the partnership and will share leadership with independent third-parties, including academics, user group advocates, and industry domain experts.

The Partnership on AI (PAI), which counts Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google, Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Facebook Inc (FB.O) as members, is a body that develops ethical guidelines for AI research, including ensuring research does not violate worldwide conventions or human rights.

China's AI roadmap encourages technology sharing between private, public and military research groups. All the ways Amazon's AI brought me the socks I am wearing right now "Admitting our first Chinese member is an important step toward building a truly global partnership", the group's executive director, Terah Lyons, said in a statement. Artificial intelligence is spreading rapidly into daily life. And China's ambitions in the field are too big to ignore.

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"The growth and scope of work on AI in China is extensive", said Lyons, a former adviser to the US Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Last year China's industry ministry named Baidu as one of four national AI champions, and the search firm has invested heavily in autonomous driving and deep learning in recent years. "AI is the new electricity ... it's going to change industry after industry and we are at the center of that", Li said.

"As AI technology keeps advancing and the application of AI expands, we recognise the importance of joining the global discussion around the future of AI", said Ya-Qin Zhang, president of Baidu. "Ensuring AI's safety, fairness and transparency should not be an afterthought but rather highly considered at the onset of every project or system we build".

AI, comprising technologies which perform tasks that are characteristic of human intelligence, such as understanding language and recognising objects and sounds, has been a contentious subject, with hi-tech industry leaders like Elon Musk warning of technology running amok and governments studying the potential disruptive impact on jobs. The Partnership on AI said it plans to add new members in China and other countries in the future.

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