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AI initiative counts Google, Microsoft, IBM among its ranks, Apple declines invite

Six companies including Microsoft and Google have launched a cross-disciplinary partnership to steer the future of artificial intelligence development, but as of yet, Apple has not signed on.

Officially titled the "Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society," the group's stated goals are to pool resources and develop interoperability for the future of AI technology. At this time, the group has declared that it does not intend to become a governmental lobbyist group.

To meet its goals, the organization anticipates it will "host discussions, commission studies, write and distribute reports on critical topics, and seek to develop and share best practices and standards for industry." Additionally, the group states that it will "conduct outreach with the public and across the industry on topics related to advancing better understanding of AI systems and the potential applications and implications of this technology as they arise."

The founding corporate members of the group are Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft with each company holding one spot on the board of directors. Notable missing members are Apple, and Elon Musk's OpenAI program.

"We've been in discussions with Apple," said Microsoft engineer and partnership co-chair Eric Horvitz. "I know they're enthusiastic about this effort, and I'd personally hope to see them join."

Apple has historically not joined industry-guiding groups until late in the process, if at all. The Bluetooth SIG was formed in 1998, with Apple only joining as a lead-tier "promoting member" in 2015, more than a decade after the technology's first inclusion in an Apple product.

In the future, the group hopes to have "academics, non-profits and specialists in policy and ethics" outside of big business as members to help guide the initiative.

"This group is a huge step forward, breaking down barriers for AI teams to share best practices, research ways to maximize societal benefits and tackle ethical concerns, and make it easier for those in other fields to engage with everyone's work." said Google's Greg Corrado and the initiative's other chairman Mustafa Suleyman from Google-owned DeepMind in a joint statement. "We're really proud of how this has come together, and we're looking forward to working with everyone inside and outside the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to make sure AI has the broad and transformative impact we all want to see."

Suleyman is co-founder and Head of Applied AI at DeepMind, where he is responsible for the application of DeepMind's technology to real-world problems. Corrado is a senior scientist at Google Research, and a co-founder of the Google Brain Team.

Horvitz is a Microsoft Technical Fellow and managing director of Microsoft's Redmond, Washington research lab, specializing in the "complementarities of human and machine intelligence."