Carnegie Mellon University is planning to announce on Wednesday the creation of a new research center focusing on the ethics of artificial intelligence. The K&L Gates Endowment for Ethics and Computational Technologies. The announcement comes during a period of increased attention to the ethical issues surrounding increasingly advanced artificial intelligence technology.
Carnegie Mellon has been at the center of the A.I. field since the 1950s, when faculty there developed software to show how computer algorithms could be used to intelligently solve problems.
President of Carnegie Mellon, Subra Suresh, described the necessity of such research into A.I. ethics, saying “We are at a unique point in time where the technology is far ahead of society’s ability to restrain it.”
Faster computer chips, more affordable technology, and increasingly massive collections of data have yielded improvements in robotics, and in functions such as machine vision and speech recognition. Advances in machine learning have expanded the cognitive abilities of A.I. Last year, 40 staff members from Carnegie Mellon left to work at a new self-driving car laboratory established by Uber. The Pentagon has even explored A.I. drone technology that can identify targets and make kill decisions on its own – a move that war planners have criticized as unwise. These advances are quickly raising questions about the ethics and risks of using such advanced technology.
It has been an eventful year in the field of A.I. developments, especially in terms of ethics. In October, the Obama administration released a report detailing the possible consequences of the increased use of advanced A.I technology. Earlier in the year, the administration also held a series of workshops around the country examining the impact of A.I. In September, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and IBM established a partnership to develop ethical guidelines for the use of A.I.
The project is funded by a 10 million dollar gift from K&L Gates, one of the largest law firms in the US. The center will combine multiple academic disciplines and will add two faculty positions and three positions for graduate students. It will also establish a biennial conference relating to the ethical issues of advanced A.I.
“Carnegie Mellon resides at the intersection of many disciplines,” said Peter J. Kalis, chairman of the K&L Gates, law firm. “It will take a synthesis of the best thinking of all of these disciplines for society to define the ethical constraints on the emerging A.I. technologies.”