Google puts up $25m to fund AI with a social conscience

Google Cloud

Google is offering AI developers, and anyone else with a good idea, access to a $25m cash pool and help from the ads and search giant to develop projects that actually benefit society.

Google has bundled a number of its own projects into AI and “positive societal impact” under a new banner, AI for Social Good.

In a blog post, Jeff Dean, SVP, Google AI and Google.org chief Jacquelline Fuller wrote: We’re applying AI to a wide range of problems, partnering with external organizations to work toward solutions.”

At the same time,  they wrote, it has launched the Google AI Impact Challenge,described as a call “for nonprofits, academics, and social enterprises from around the world to submit proposals on how they could use AI to help address some of the world’s greatest social, humanitarian and environmental problems.”

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They added, “ We want people from as many backgrounds as possible to surface problems that AI can help solve, and to be empowered to create solutions themselves”.

Winning ideas and projects will get funding from a pool of $25m, along with credits and consulting from Google cloud, and coaching from Google’s own AI experts. Google will also put a Launchpad Accelerator programme in place for grant winners. An expert panel – 50 per cent Googlers – will choose successful proposals early next year.

Google said it doesn’t expect applicants to be AI experts. It’d be nice to think that AI developers also have social consciences and are as capable as anyone else of coming up with an idea that benefits society at large.

That said, some problems might struggle to get on the radar of engineering types, while social scientists might have better antenna for those situations when a particular engineering approach might jibe with society at large. Something Google has found to its cost in the past, for example by having a tin ear to German history and the country’s concerns about privacy and surveillance when it rolled out its Streetview.

You can get full details of the competition here.

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