Have you been paying any attention at all about artificial intelligence (AI)? Do you think that AI isn’t already affecting your life and work?

If you think AI is not already very much part of your existence, buddy, think again.

If you haven’t heard of the Partnership on AI, you might want to check it out. AI is already affecting many aspects of our lives, including how we live and communicate, our businesses and, yes, even philanthropy.

We’re Living with AI Every Day

In 2016, Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and others created the Partnership on AI. Other members include philanthropic and humanitarian giants like UNICEF, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU. Why is this happening? Technology is developing so quickly that it is fundamentally changing how we live now and in the future.

You might not realize it, but you’re engaging with or being affected by powerful AI tools every day.

  • When you’re driving and using a GPS app such as Waze, when you’re learning about traffic congestion and time to destination, artificial intelligence is crunching all of that data.
  • Uber’s famous (or infamous) pricing model and surging are done with AI.
  • If you fly on a commercial plane, a pilot is typically only steering hands-on for 7 minutes of flight. The rest of the time, guess who’s the captain.
  • When you use social media, such as Facebook, and you’re given suggestions of who to tag because your friends are in the picture you’re uploading, guess who knows the names of your friends to tag. Facebook (and AI) have face recognition abilities. So does your iPhone if you’re an Apple fan.
  • Even with email, when your mail is going to spam, that filter is AI.
  • Personal assistants such as Siri and Alexa are AI.

There are countless other examples. In the meantime, you have global leaders such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking saying we have to pay attention to artificial intelligence because it poses an existential threat to humanity.

Humans are the dominant species because our brains can think, reason, use logic, and create. It places us at an advantage over all other creatures that inhabit this planet. However, we may have met our match with artificial intelligence. The concern is that as AI becomes smarter and stronger than us, we could lose our ability to control it. And all you have to do is watch a movie to see what that could portend for humanity.

Partnership on AI

The Partnership on AI has been created to have a dialogue and push thinking (e.g. global policy and legislation) to ensure that we benefit from artificial intelligence but don’t become subordinate to it, or worse, be destroyed by it. There are four key goals to the organization.

  1. Develop and Share Best Practices
  2. Provide an Open and Inclusive Platform for Discussion and Engagement
  3. Advance Public Understanding
  4. Identify and Foster Aspirational Efforts in AI for Socially Beneficial Purposes

AI and Philanthropy

Philanthropy is already being affected by artificial intelligence. Early in 2017, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Reid Hoffman who is the founder of LinkedIn, Omidyar Network, and others created a $27 million fund to ensure that artificial intelligence benefits humanity and does not hurt or even destroy it.

In the day to day, however, nonprofit executive directors and their teams are using AI to raise awareness and money. The Charities Aid Foundation published an article, which you can find here, that outlines some charities that are already working on how to incorporate AI into their operations. Some of those examples include the following:

  • The Children’s Society has started using AI powered translation tools by Microsoft.
  • The Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS) is using AI to analyze data that they’ve accumulated over the years on poaching behavior.
  • The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative bought Meta, which has used AI to research, navigate and prioritize all of the academic papers in existence.

If you haven’t been paying too much attention to the discussion that is happening about artificial intelligence because you feel it doesn’t affect you or the work you do, think again. At the moment, AI is in our lives and work but probably in ways that we don’t really notice or realize. However, AI is going to quickly become a force to be reckoned with in a sense (hopefully) that it will permit us to do incredible things in life and business, including the nonprofit sector. And, those organizations what are paying attention and forward looking are likely going to be the ones that will benefit the most.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.