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blog Dec 1, 2016

Why… …we are called ‘Benevolent’?

Author: Kenneth Mulvany

This is perhaps one of the most common questions people ask us.  It’s a simple question that I’ve found to have a surprisingly complex answer as there are many avenues of conversation this question takes you down; from the existential risk presented by AI technology to the true nature and meaning of benevolence and the responsibility all companies have to society.   

So, I thought I’d grasp the nettle and try and provide as succinct an answer as possible.  Why are we called BenevolentAI?  Actually I am going to give you two answers – a short answer and a slightly longer ‘short’ answer!

But first, let’s start with what our company is not using AI for.  We are not using AI to deliver better targeted online advertising and search engine optimisation or algorithmic finance and insurance risk assessment. Equally we are not trying to deliver a cooler voice assistant on your smart phone or creating chat bot customer service products.  All of these AI applications are evolving, innovating, developing and diversifying AI as a technology.  However, none of them can be described as benevolent.

The short answer…

So the short answer is… …we are developing and applying AI technology to enhance and accelerate scientific discovery by turning the world’s mass of highly fragmented scientific information into new insight and useable knowledge that ultimately benefits society.   

We believe AI does not supplant human intelligence but instead augments it and that such augmentation is essential in solving some of the world’s greatest societal, scientific and environmental challenges.  We have started in the area of drug discovery and are broadening the benevolence of our technology to radically improve scientific discovery on a truly global scale.

Simple right?  But hang on. That is a benevolent purpose but what do we actually do as an organisation?  What will we be giving’? How will we actually benefit society?

The slightly longer ‘short’ answer…

We aim to be benevolent in…

…THE PROBLEM WE ARE TRYING TO SOLVE – despite the huge growth of knowledge and information the process of scientific discovery has not changed for 50 years.  A life science paper is published every 30 seconds making it impossible for humans alone to process all of the information potentially available to them.  We can greatly affect the costly, timely and risky elements in the early stage drug development process.  Our technology enables intelligent mass analysis of vast amounts of scientific information which significantly accelerates the rate of scientific discovery and drug development, dramatically reduces the margin of error when new drugs are put into clinical trials, and, reduces the vast resources and money needed to deliver drugs fit for purpose.

…IN WHAT WE DEVELOP – we have started with human health, specifically rare disease groups in often overlooked areas such as neurodegeneration, orphan diseases and rare cancers. Our ambition is to apply our technology into other areas where scientific data can be optimised to benefit the way we live and our relationship with the societies and ecology we share it with.

…IN HOW WE DEVELOP – we view the development, teaching and application our technology as being similar to a parent raising a child responsibly.  Right from the beginning we are building our technology on a robustly principled foundation - teaching right and wrong and embedding a respect, and adherence, to critical laws and values. In essence we are hard wiring morality into the AI learning process so that the technology’s aim is implicitly to benefit society by improving quality of life (health) and protecting way of life (a better place to live).

 …IN WHAT WE SHARE – we want to share our knowledge and technology where it will benefit the scientific and technology communities that we work with.  We have already released a number of tools that are open for anyone to use and share.  What’s more, it’s our intention to continue sharing usable IP, tools and services for free as the technology broadens and advances.    

So, its sounds like we are trying to change the world for the better, right?  Well… …we kind of are.