Hoffman and Omidyar are each kicking in $10 million to get the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund started. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has committed $5 million more. And there are $1 million contributions from James Pallotta, the investor who founded the Raptor Group; and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Awards will be made from the fund to support a global cross-section of research aimed at applying the humanities, social sciences and other disciplines to the development of AI for the public interest. The MIT Media Lab and Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society will serve as the initiative’s founding academic institutions.
The fund is expected to grow as other contributors come on board.
“Artificial intelligence agents will impact our lives in every society on earth. Technology and commerce will see to that,” Alberto Ibargüen, president of the Knight Foundation, said today in a news release announcing the fund’s establishment.
“Since even algorithms have parents, and those parents have values that they instill in their algorithmic progeny, we want to influence the outcome by ensuring ethical behavior, and governance that includes the interests of the diverse communities that will be affected,” Ibargüen said.
For example, research already suggests that AI algorithms can amplify the biases that are built into human interactions. Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, said heading off such biases is “one of the most critical challenges” facing the field.
“There’s an urgency to ensure that AI benefits society and minimizes harm,” said Hoffman, who served as LinkedIn’s executive chairman until Microsoft’s $26 billion acquisition of the business-oriented social network closed last month. He’s also a partner at Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm.
Pierre Omidyar, founding partner of the Omidyar Network, said he’s supporting the fund “to ensure that critical areas like ethics, accountability and governance are considered from the earliest stages of design.”
The fund’s backers said they would collaborate with existing AI research efforts, including an “AI Now” symposium scheduled for July 10 at MIT Media Lab.
Existing efforts also include:
- Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, whose motto is “AI for the common good.” The Seattle-based institute was founded in 2013 with backing from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
- OpenAI, a nonprofit research company with a mission “to build safe AI, and ensure AI’s benefits are as widely and evenly distributed as possibie.” In 2015, Hoffman joined PayPal co-founders Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, plus other backers, in committing $1 billion to OpenAI.
- AI100, also known as the One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence. AI100 is a Stanford research project organized by Microsoft executive Eric Horvitz to monitor the development of AI and its effects over the course of the next century. AI100 issued its first report last September.
- The Partnership on AI is a nonprofit organization that brings together Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google DeepMind and IBM to advance public understanding of AI technologies and formulate best practices.