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Apple has confirmed it is joining the Partnership on AI

Apple has confirmed it is joining the Partnership on AI
Tech3 min read

Apple Tom Gruber

Partnership on AI

Tom Gruber, head of advanced development of Siri, at Apple.

Apple has finally joined an artificial intelligence (AI) research group that includes the likes of Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. 

The group, known as Partnership on AI, is working to ensure that AI is developed safely and ethically, thereby avoiding the nightmare robot uprising scenarios that have been described by the likes of renowned scientist Stephen Hawking and Tesla billionaire Elon Musk.

Tom Gruber, head of advanced development of Siri, Apple's personal assistant, said in a statement on Friday: "We're glad to see the industry engaging on some of the larger opportunities and concerns created with the advance of machine learning and AI.

"We believe it's beneficial to Apple, our customers, and the industry to play an active role in its development and look forward to collaborating with the group to help drive discussion on how to advance AI while protecting the privacy and security of consumers."

Partnership on AI officially launched last September but there was one glaring om mission: Apple. The company was asked to be a member from the outset but it refused to sign up initially.

"Apple has joined the Partnership on AI as a founding member," reads a blog post on the Partnership on AI website. "The company has been involved and collaborating with the Partnership since before it was first announced and is thrilled to formalise its membership alongside Amazon, Facebook, Google/DeepMind, IBM, and Microsoft."

The confirmation that Apple has joined Partnership on AI comes a day after Bloomberg reported that the Cupertino-headquartered company was planning to join.

Six other people have also been appointed to the Partnership on AI's board of trustees. They include:

  • Dario Amodei (OpenAI)
  • Subbarao Kambhampati (Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence & ASU)
  • Deirdre Mulligan (UC Berkeley)
  • Carol Rose (American Civil Liberties Union)
  • Eric Sears (MacArthur Foundation)
  • Jason Furman (Peterson Institute of International Economics).

The new members will join Greg Corrado (Google/DeepMind), Tom Gruber (Apple), Ralf Herbrich (Amazon), Eric Horvitz (Microsoft), Yann Lecun (Facebook), and Francesca Rossi (IBM). 

Technology leaders already involved in the partnership welcomed Apple to the Partnership on Friday. Mustafa Suleyman, cofounder and head of applied AI at DeepMind, which is also a member, wrote on Twitter that he was "delighted" Apple was joining.

Apple has been gradually building up its AI and machine learning capabilities and buying a succession of small AI startups. Last October, it hired Professor Ruslan Salakhutdinov, one of the big guns of AI research.

Unlike Google, DeepMind, and Facebook, Apple has traditionally prevented its top researchers from publishing their work in open forums. Last November, Yann LeCun, Facebook's head of AI, said this could make some engineers think twice about working for the iPhone maker.

"So, [when] you're a researcher, you assume that you're going to publish your work," said LeCun. "It's very important for a scientist because the currency of the career as a scientist is the intellectual impact. So you can't tell people 'come work for us but you can't tell people what you're doing' because you basically ruin their career. That's a big element."

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