The city of Pittsburgh reinforced its commitment to the development of ethical and beneficial artificial intelligence (AI) during the United Nation’s 2nd AI for Good Global Summit in Geneva, Switzerland.


 A delegation of five Pittsburgh representatives, led by Kenny Chen from Ascender and including Mayor Bill Peduto, joined participants from more than 60 countries over the course of three days to discuss and propose actionable projects around critical topics in AI.

The AI for Good series is the leading United Nations platform for dialogue on AI, organized in partnership with XPRIZE and the Association for Computing Machinery. Building on insights from the inaugural Summit in 2017, the action-oriented 2018 Summit identified practical applications of AI and supported strategies to improve the quality and sustainability of life on our planet. The Summit will continue to formulate strategies to ensure trusted, safe and inclusive development of AI technologies and equitable access to their benefits.

“What we created one year ago here together is now becoming a global movement, the AI for Good movement.” said Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), at the Summit. “I am pleased to tell you that this Summit has built support for more than 30 projects. […] Working together, I am confident that we can play to our unique strengths and develop AI capabilities to spur inclusive social and economic development in all regions of the world.”

Pittsburgh’s representatives were involved in multiple facets of the Summit’s planning and execution. Dr. David Danks, Head of the Department of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University, is a founding member of the new initiative for ensuring the development of trustworthy AI. Dr. Shinjini Kundu, a Research Scientist at the NIH, is leading a project on applying AI for early detection of osteoarthritis. Dr. Diane Litman, Director of the Intelligent Systems Program at the University of Pittsburgh, is contributing her expertise in natural language processing toward Smart Cities projects. Kenny Chen, Innovation Director at Ascender, has served as Pittsburgh’s liaison for AI for Good initiatives since attending the first Summit in 2017, and is working with Summit organizers to advance multiple projects, including a global Data Commons.

Houlin Zhao- Secretary General of ITU

Toward the conclusion of the Summit, Mayor Bill Peduto was invited to call the opening of the “Beneficial AI Era” on behalf of Pittsburgh. The city was recognized for being at the forefront of driving cutting-edge technological innovation, while also prioritizing the ethical and inclusive integration of those technologies into people’s lives. In an interview with TED Global Curator, Bruno Giussani, Mayor Peduto shared core philosophies and specific examples from Pittsburgh’s inclusive innovation, smart cities, and resilience strategies. The mayor cited university partnerships, values around inclusive innovation, and lessons learned from the city’s industrial legacy as being key assets in helping Pittsburgh navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution the right way.

“As Pittsburgh continues to lead in artificial intelligence, robotics, life sciences, and other industries, we also need to lead in developing safe, transparent and beneficial technology. We are committed to working with partners, locally and globally, to solve our most pressing problems while also mitigating the risks posed by these technological advances,” says Mayor Peduto.

Among these partnerships has been a growing relationship with the XPRIZE Foundation, the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. The AI for Good Summit was founded by XPRIZE and the ITU in 2017, building on momentum from the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, a global competition to develop and demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful AI technologies to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as those presented in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Pittsburgh currently boasts seven teams out of 62 remaining worldwide in the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. The city is also preparing for the newest $10M ANA Avatar XPRIZE, which challenges teams to accelerate the development of a multi-purpose avatar system that will enable us to remotely see, hear, touch and interact with physical environments and other people through an integrated robotic device.

Kenny Chen

“Pittsburgh has already proven to be a valuable and capable partner for us,” says Amir Banifatemi, AI for Good Summit co-organizer and New Frontiers Group Lead for XPRIZE. “We’ll be counting on their continued support and leadership as an ‘AI for Good’ city that helps move the world toward an era of beneficial AI.”

Pittsburgh’s role in the UN’s AI for Good initiative is the most recent development in an accelerating cadence of AI-related news in the city. In May 2018 alone, Carnegie Mellon University began offering the nation’s first undergraduate degree in AI; Facebook announced plans to build a new AI research lab in Pittsburgh; and Innovation Works and CMU hosted the city’s first AI/Robotics Venture Fair.