Google says it wants to help people do positive things with artificial intelligence.
The search giant on Monday announced a new challenge for nonprofits, universities and other organizations working on AI projects that will benefit society. The contest is called the AI Global Impact Challenge, and the company has pledged $25 million in grants.
The challenge is part of a new Google initiative called “AI for Social Good.” Google says the program is meant to help solve big, pressing problems, like issues around crisis relief, environmental conservation or sex trafficking. But it also comes at a time when Google has been under increased scrutiny over how its own artificial intelligence could be used, including in controversial military work or reported efforts to build a censored search engine in China.
CNET reported that at the announcement event at the Google office in Sunnyvale, California, the company’s head of AI Jeff Dean did not mention any of the recent controversies over Google developing AI for the Pentagon. At a press conference after the event, Dean reportedly said the program is “not really a reaction” to recent news.
A Google spokesperson also told Gizmodo the AI for Social Good endeavor is not a response to Project Maven.
At Monday’s event, Google mentioned some new humanitarian AI endeavor—like a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collaboration to create AI that listens for sounds of whales so shipping companies can avoid endangered species.
“We’re all grappling with questions of how AI should be used,” Dean said at the even, according to CNET. “AI truly has the potential to improve people’s lives.”
Amidst this new focus on ways technology can be used for good, hopefully, some Google executives are also reflecting on the myriad of ways their technology can be used for nefarious purposes.