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eBay and LinkedIn founders back research into ethical AI

They want AI to consider social values.
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Thomas Vogel via Getty Images

Some big names in the tech world aren't just fretting over the possibility of dangerous AI, they're taking steps to make sure it doesn't happen. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (through his Omidyar Network) are pouring a total of $20 million into a newly created Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund that will fuel research into the social considerations around AI. The organization wants to be sure that machines aren't just guided by "engineers and corporations" -- they should consider the input of everyone from social scientists through to economists and politicians.

The fund is also getting $5 million from the Knight Foundation, and a total of $2 million between the Raptor Group and the Hewlett Foundation. MIT Media Lab and Harvard University's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society will be the first academic institutions conducting studies.

The backers acknowledge that there are a lot of factors to consider, and that there won't be any quick solutions. How do you write AI that considers ethics and morals? How do you make it accountable for its actions? And how do you ensure that companies building AI are working in the public interest without stifling their creativity? Someone has to get the ball rolling, though, and it won't be surprising if the fund helps influence technology for a long while.

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