Facebook backs AI ethics institute with $7.5M

Facebook has partnered with the Technical University of Munich in Germany to create an new research center at the university, backed by an initial grant of $7.5 million from the social network.

The new institute, dubbed the Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence, will serve as an independent research center. Researchers at the institute will investigate safety, privacy and transparency concerns related to AI, with the goal of developing guidance for developers, industry and legislators.

"[AI] offers an immense opportunity to benefit people and communities around the world," Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, PhD, director of applied machine learning at Facebook, wrote in a blog post announcing the institute.

"But as AI technology increasingly impacts people and society, the academics, industry stakeholders and developers driving these advances need to do so responsibly and ensure AI treats people fairly, protects their safety, respects their privacy and works for them," he added.

Facebook — which is based in Menlo Park, Calif. — said it decided to work with TUM because it is one of the top-ranked universities worldwide in AI. It also cited Germany as being at the "forefront of the conversation surrounding ethical frameworks for AI[,] including the creation of government-led ethical guidelines on autonomous driving."

An advisory board of academic, civil society and industry representatives will guide the Institute for Ethics in AI, and Facebook said it will offer the institute an "industry perspective on academic research proposals, rendering the latter more actionable and impactful."

"Our evidence-based research will address issues that lie at the interface of technology and human values," said Christoph Lütge, PhD, chair of business ethics at TUM, who is slated to lead the research center. "We will ... deal with transparency and accountability, for example in medical treatment scenarios, or with rights and autonomy in human decision-making in situations of human-AI interaction."

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