Intel seeks to advance 'AI for good'

As Intel develops new products to power AI applications, it's also attempting to nurture the artificial intelligence (AI) marketplace and guide it in a positive direction.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

As Intel develops new products to power AI applications, it's also attempting to nurture the AI marketplace and guide it in a positive direction.

The chipmaker on Thursday announced a series of steps it's taking beyond product development to advance the constructive use of artificial intelligence in society. First, it's establishing a thought leadership board comprising academics. The company is also establishing an "AI academy" to support data scientists and developers. Intel is also forming new partnerships with nonprofits to advance what it calls "AI for good".

"A lot of times artificial intelligence can be associated with 'The Terminator' and robots taking over the world, and we think there are some really remarkable things AI is going to do to make the world a better place," Intel Vice President Jason Waxman told ZDNet. That's why the company, he said, is taking steps "to provide the right motivation and guidance in the industry to move it forward."

That guidance starts with the creation of the Intel Nervana AI Academy to give developers, data scientists, academic, and others tools and training to accelerate work on the Intel AI platform. There will be more than 100 meet-ups over the course of next year, Waxman said, as well as competitions to help galvanize the community. For instance, Intel is partnering with Mobile ODT to launch a Kaggle Competition for the best use AI to solve real-world socioeconomic problems.

While it helps build the AI community, Intel is also looking to the field's current thought leaders for guidance. The new Intel Nervana AI board has four founding members: Yoshua Bengio from the University of Montreal, Bruno Olshausen from UC Berkeley, Jan Rabaey from UC Berkeley, and Ron Dror from Stanford. Intel expects the board "to guide us to things that are beneficial to society and pushing technology in the right directions," said Intel Vice President Naveen Rao.

The profound implications of AI have inspired several efforts across the industry and academia to grapple with its ethical questions and steer the technology in the right direction. And like Intel, other companies are investing in partnerships that leverage AI to improve society in areas like health.

Intel specifically announced Thursday that it's expanding its partnership with the Broad Institute, committing $25 million to advance the use high-performance computing for genomics analytics. Intel is commited to the project for five years, through the Intel-Broad Center for Genomic Data Engineering. "The idea being if we can provide the tools and also allow more sources of genomic data sets to come together, we can advance research, for example, for drug-resistant forms of cancer," Waxman explained.

Additionally, Intel is working with Hack Harassment, the cooperative effort to reduce online harassment, to use "AI for good". Specifically, they're working on an intelligent algorithm to detect and deter online harassment, which could one day be released as an open source API.

Intel is also working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, providing providing algorithms and tools to the nonprofit to help respond to reports of child exploitation.

"In all of these cases, the data is there, it's a matter of being able to sift through it and make use of it," Rao explained. "That's really what AI promises."

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