Apple is tipped to join an AI ethics group that includes Google, Facebook, and Amazon

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tim cook

AP

Apple CEO Tim Cook.

There was one big name missing from the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (AI) member list when the research consortium was announced last September. Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft all pledged to work together to ensure AI is developed safely and ethically but Apple refused to get involved.

Now it looks like the world's largest company and a tech giant renowned for keeping its research efforts a secret may have reconsidered its decision. Citing sources with knowledge of the situation, Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Apple is set to join the elite club, going on to say that its admission could be announced as early as this week.

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

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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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AI has been tipped to improve many aspects of life, ranging from healthcare, education, and manufacturing to home automation and transportation. But it's also been described by the likes of renowned scientist Stephen Hawking and tech billionaire Elon Musk as something that could wipe out humans altogether.

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Partnership on AI, a non-profit organisation, has pledged to work to advance public understanding of AI and formulate best practices on the challenges and opportunities within the field.

Apple did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

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