Google Wants You to Use A.I. to Save the World

Can artificial intelligence (A.I.) save the world?

That seems to be Google’s thinking. Its new program, AI for Social Good, bills itself as a way for A.I. to solve “some of the world’s biggest challenges,” from predicting natural disasters to saving vulnerable species from extinction. As part of that initiative, Google has launched the Google AI Impact Challenge, which will pay out grants from a $25 million pool to any researchers who come up with good proposals for saving the world through A.I.

“Grantees will also join a specialized Launchpad Accelerator program, and we’ll tailor additional support to each project’s needs in collaboration with data science nonprofit DataKind,” added Google’s official blog posting on the matter. “In spring of 2019, an international panel of experts, who work in computer science and the social sector, will help us choose the top proposals.”

If you’re a tech pro with a good idea for doing good, Google may prove willing to shower you with money, credits for Google Cloud, mentorship, and more. Tech pros who work for nonprofits may also find the program enticing. (And for Google, the PR benefits of being tied to “charitable A.I.” are, of course, enormous.)

There are already some examples of people using Google’s artificial intelligence tools to do things that benefit the environment or the unfortunate. For example, Google and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently teamed up to build a deep neural network that can identify whale species based on their sounds, and then use that information to track individual animals.

For those who want to save the world through technology, but don’t know much about A.I., Google also offers some handy resources for plunging into the field, including a quick introduction to machine learning and a set of A.I. experiments. Of course, that won’t be nearly enough to teach you what you need to know; fortunately, there are lots of other websites that teach A.I. fundamentals.

There’s been a lot of momentum behind making artificial intelligence (A.I.) “smarter.” IBM researchers are using “Pac-Man” to build software that alters its behavior in response to changing situations, and DARPA wants to give the machines of the future a bit more “common sense.”

By funding more ideas, Google might end up expanding the usages of A.I. still further—and maybe save a whale or two in the process. And let’s not forget: introducing A.I. to the concept of empathy might help prevent Skynet.

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