Facebook and Technical University of Munich launch AI ethics research centre

Technical University of MunichFacebook has announced a partnership with the Technical University of Munich (TUM) to support the creation of an independent AI ethics research centre. In a post written by Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, director, Applied Machine Learning, Facebook said it will support the centre, called The Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence, with an initial funding grant of $7.5m over five years. It also said the Institute will help advance the growing field of ethical research on new technology and will explore fundamental issues affecting the use and impact of AI.

The Technical University of Munich specialises in artificial intelligence, with work extending from fundamental research, to applications in fields such as robotics and machine intelligence, to the study of the social implications of AI. Facebook said the new facility will leverage the TUM’s academic expertise, resources and global network to pursue rigorous ethical research into the questions evolving technologies raise.

Drawing on expertise across academia and industry, the Institute will conduct independent, evidence-based research to provide insight and guidance for society, industry, legislators and decision-makers across the private and public sectors. The Institute will address issues that affect the use and impact of artificial intelligence, such as safety, privacy, fairness and transparency.
Through its work, the Institute will seek to contribute to the broader conversation surrounding ethics and AI, pursuing research that can help provide tangible frameworks, methodologies and algorithmic approaches to advise AI developers and practitioners on ethical best practices to address real world challenges.

The Institute will be led by TUM Professor Dr. Christoph Lütge, who holds degrees in business informatics and philosophy and has served as the Peter Löscher Endowed Chair of Business Ethics at TUM since 2010. Working with a diverse advisory board of representatives from academia, civil society and industry, the Institute will identify specific research questions and convene researchers focused on AI ethics and governance-related issues.

“At the TUM Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence, we will explore the ethical issues of AI and develop ethical guidelines for the responsible use of the technology in society and the economy,” Dr. Lütge said. “Our evidence-based research will address issues that lie at the interface of technology and human values. Core questions arise around trust, privacy, fairness or inclusion, for example, when people leave data traces on the internet or receive certain information by way of algorithms. We will also deal with transparency and accountability, for example in medical treatment scenarios, or with rights and autonomy in human decision-making in situations of human-AI interaction.”

While Facebook is providing initial funding, the Institute will explore other funding opportunities from other partners and agencies. Facebook said it may also share insights, tools, and industry expertise related to issues such addressing algorithmic bias, in order to help Institute researchers focus on real-world problems that manifest at scale.

“Realizing AI’s huge potential for good while balancing its risks is a global effort, and it will not be accomplished overnight,” Quiñonero wrote. “The Institute is an exciting step forward in our continued commitment to partnering with academic institutions, governments, NGOs, advocacy and industry groups, and others who are working to advance AI in a safe and responsible way.”