Artificial Intelligence: Blackstone’s Schwarzman Argues For International Cooperation on AI

July 16, 2020 | Artificial Intelligence, News

A “global compact” is essential to maximize the benefits from AI while minimizing its risks, the private equity magnate writes.

In 2017, Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO & Co-Founder of Blackstone (NYSE: BX), happened to be seated next to Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) founder Jack Ma on a bus en route to a meeting. At that encounter, Ma expressed his apprehensions about AI and its potential for “bad stuff” like massive unemployment.

Maybe that conversation struck a chord with Schwarzman and his own concerns regarding the ethical use of technology.

An ongoing conversation with the University of Oxford culminated with a $188 million donation by the billionaire in 2019 for its proposed new Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. Importantly, the Centre will house a new Institute for Ethics in AI, which will focus on studying the ethical implications of artificial intelligence and other new technology.

Schwarzman on the potential of AI

Schwarzman is well aware of the powerful benefits of AI. In the article “The case for a global compact on artificial intelligence,” (July 15, 2020) he writes that the healthcare, education, and manufacturing sectors can deliver enormous payoffs globally.

Yet the world is divided on AI.

‘Speaking with the world’s tech experts and entrepreneurs…I’ve come to learn…hold widely divergent views on whether AI will be a force for good, or whether it will disrupt society and life as we know it,” Schwarzman observes.

These ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments are pointless, he argues.

Instead, we should focus on “the steps we must take today to ensure that we responsibly harness the near limitless potential of AI.”

“To maximize AI’s benefits while minimizing its risks, we need to establish a global compact for the research, introduction, and deployment of AI,” Schwarzman suggests in the article.

AI should be done right

In 2019, Schwarzmann also donated $350 million to fund MIT’s new College of Computing.

A comment he made then about computing technology, particularly AI, is significant. “I think this is really important because the technologies on the upside are so unbelievably helpful and powerful, and going to do a great job with health care, and medicines, and diagnoses, and all kinds of things, but you need to make sure that this is done the right way.”

Global compact

Coming back to his recent article on a global agreement on AI.

Schwarzman is happy that a broad global “convergence” already exists on five principles for ethical AI development. These are:

  • Transparency (easily explainable)
  • Fairness (no bias, inequality or discrimination)
  • Safety (cause no harm)
  • Responsibility (clear accountability if something goes wrong)
  • Privacy (protection of people’s rights, interests, and information)

“The earlier these principles can be harmonized and applied via common governance structures, the more likely we are to avoid the negative consequences of AI,” he emphasizes.

Further, “it is imperative that we move beyond principles to explicit global commitments, agreements, and eventually international laws with consequences for violation.”

Related Story:  AI and Ethics

Image of Stephen Schwarzman, Co-founder, Chairman & CEO, Blackstone, 5 November 2019:  Web Summit/Flickr

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