While AI for good programs often warrant genuine excitement, they should also invite increased scrutiny. Good intentions are not enough when it comes to deploying AI for those in greatest need. In fact, the fanfare around these projects smacks of tech solutionism, which can mask root causes and the risks of experimenting with AI on vulnerable people without appropriate safeguards.
Tech companies that set out to develop a tool for the common good, not only their self-interest, soon face a dilemma: They lack the expertise in the intractable social and humanitarian issues facing much of the world. That’s why companies like Intel have partnered with National Geographic and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation on wildlife trafficking. And why Facebook partnered with the Red Cross to find missing people after disasters. IBM’s social-good program alone boasts 19 partnerships with NGOs and government agencies. Partnerships are smart. The last thing society needs is for engineers in enclaves like Silicon Valley to deploy AI tools for global problems they know little about.