Google Aims Achieving Social Good Through AI

Google launches initiatives to encourage civic participation in AI-linked projects.
Mario L. Major

From education tools to even paintings, there is no denying the presence of artificial intelligence (AI) in our lives. Also proof of its normalcy is in tech organizations themselves: within the Google organization alone, employees made ethical objections to a drone project involving the Pentagon, which led to the government pulling out of the Maven project.

What this seems to indicate is that more individuals are taking a firmer stand against the inappropriate use of AI. This issue, combined with the explosion of AI-based applications, are proof that AI is taking on a broader appeal, which means that the perceptions of the general public are also changing.

Now, emboldened by this shift in the influence of AI in society, Google is encouraging civic society to get involved with putting forth their own ideas about how AI can make the world a better place. The initiative is aptly titled AI for Social Good. The company is putting up $25M of its own money to create the fund from which the winners of the competition will be paid to translate their visions into reality.

Who Can Apply?

Based on the two concepts of (1) "applying core Google research and engineering efforts to projects with positive societal impact, including partnering with experts," and (2) then "empowering the ecosystem with tools and resources through [various] initiatives," it is an example of an instance in which industry is encouraging a different level of engagement with their organization and their work.


Although Google is remaining fairly flexible about the type of submissions, they have identified five core qualities that each successful project should possess:

-->  Use of AI: Does the proposal accomplish what it sets out to do?

--> Feasibility: Is there an adequate dataset in place to execute the plan, and is this supported by people who have enough expertise in the area?

--> Impact: What are the concrete ways in which this project will contribute to the greater good in society, and what expectations and outcomes are the project based on?

-->  Responsibility: The project should be fundamentally in line with Google's AI Principles based on the company's Responsible AI Practices.

--> Scalability: Can the project be expanded beyond the boundaries of the proposal to cover more areas, and more importantly, what impact on the field or the industry would a broader vision of the project potentially have?

Most importantly, the winning teams will receive considerable support from Google in the form of consulting from Google Cloud and generous support from Google's AI Experts.

Reflecting its optimism about the outcomes and seriousness of the project, Google also laid out a fairly aggressive timeline for submissions. In true techie style, the time for final submissions is 11:59:59 pm PST. The closing date is January 22, 2019. Next steps include a quick proposal review by a well-rounded panel, with decisions being announced within 4 months.