Google on Monday launched a new initiative, called AI for Social Good, which aims to direct the company's vast resources and experience in artificial intelligence to projects with positive impacts on society. The initiative is a joint effort between Google.org, the company's philanthropic arm and Google engineers and researchers. It is starting with the AI Impact Challenge, which will distribute $ 25 million in grants, as well as access to Google resources to global nonprofit organizations.
"Artificial intelligence not only helps people create more useful products," Google's artificial intelligence chief Jeff Dean said on Monday. "It is also emerging as a useful tool to improve the society in which we live."
The initiative comes when Google and other technology giants face tough ethical questions about the applications of their technologies. This year, for example, Google has had to respond to internal and external critics about its work to provide unmanned aircraft technology to the Pentagon, as well as its cooperation with the Chinese government.
Dean told reporters that the new AI for Social Good initiative was not created to counteract employee concerns about these projects. "This has been in the works for quite some time," he said.
However, the initiative aims to help Google adhere to the set of ethical principles of the AI that it established after the backlash reaction it received about its Pentagon contract. The initiative, says Google, focuses on the first goal that Google established: "be socially beneficial".
"With AI, we have another tool to explore and tackle difficult and unanswered questions that have a social impact," Dean said.
Meanwhile, as Google highlights its positive projects, it does not intend to back away from potentially controversial contracts.
"We are completely happy to work with the US government and other governments in a manner consistent with our principles," Dean told reporters on Monday, when asked about how Google might end up working more with the Pentagon.
Google and Google.org conceived the AI for Social Good initiative as a whole, so that when Google chooses the projects it will support, they will find the right Google engineers and researchers to incorporate. Some engineers and researchers may end up working full time to support one of the "AI for Social Good" projects, while others may dedicate only one or two days a week to the initiative.
The financial commitment of $ 25 million is a drop in the bucket for Google, but it could have an unreasonable impact on the non-profit world, in areas such as health care, agriculture, civil society or environmental conservation. ambient.
Dean showed one of these projects: an augmented reality microscope that can help pathologists more easily detect cancer cells. The project has yet to overcome the regulatory obstacles that will be implemented in the United States. However, implementation in the US UU It's not really the way that technology could have the most impact, said Bob MacDonald, technical manager of the program for Google's artificial health intelligence team, to ZDNet.
According to MacDonald, given that approximately 70 percent of pathologists are based in the USA. UU., Google could advance in its mission "AI for the social good" by finding deployment partners in low-income places in the developing world.
In addition, Google.org strives to open the source code of all the projects it funds, explained Jacquelline Fuller, president of Google.org, to ZDNet.
"We want to make sure that these results, the lessons learned and the data and the products and features created are available to everyone," he said. "We work with people ahead of time to make sure that the IP that is created is openly permissive and available, and from time to time there will be a reason for a different IP approach or approach … but in general we want to make sure that is available to everyone. "
For example, Google.org has worked with the organization against Thorn people trafficking to develop artificial intelligence tools to detect online ads placed by people traffickers.
"The problem is that there are about 200,000 new ads uploaded every day in the United States," Fuller explained. "There is too much information to pass manually".
Google gave the organization $ 2.5 million and access to Google resources, and now the Spotlight tool they developed is in use in all 50 states and Canada. It has helped to find more than 28,000 victims of trafficking.