It’s today’s big story: Google is offering $25 million in grants to nonprofits, universities and other organisations working on AI projects that will benefit society,
as part of its AI for Social Good initiative. Google will open the application process this coming Monday and will announce winners next spring at Google’s annual I/O developer conference.
Details of the challenge explain that Google.org is issuing an open call to organizations around the world to submit their ideas for how they could use AI to help address societal challenges. Selected organizations will receive customized support to help bring their ideas to life: coaching from Google’s AI experts, Google.org grant funding from a $25M pool, credit and consulting from Google Cloud, and more.
Google says the programme is meant to help solve the world’s most pressing problems, such as crisis relief, environmental conservation and sex trafficking.
However, it is also clear that this ‘competition’ comes at a time when Google’s own use of artificial intelligence is under increasing scrutiny, including “in controversial military work or reported efforts to build a censored search engine in China,” as CNET says. There has also been Project Maven, a U.S. Defense Department initiative aimed at developing better AI for the military that resulted in a rebellion by Google’s own employees and some 4,000 of them petitioned the executives to stop the project, which the company duly did and promised not to engage in similar projects again.
At the press announcement, Google’s head of AI, Jeff Dean, avoided discussing these issues, although he did mention Google’s ethical principles that outline how it will and will not use the technology.
Yossi Matias, vice president of engineering, said in an interview last week, “The gist of the program is to encourage people to leverage our technology. Google can’t work on everything. There are many problems out there we may not even be aware of.”
It is going to be interesting to see what initiatives come out of this global challenge. Hopefully we will see a diverse range of ideas for AI use that can improve the world when it is so badly in need of repairs in all areas of existence.