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Tech giants studying artificial intelligence are enlisting an Obama veteran as their new leader

Terah Lyons is now the founding executive director of the Partnership for AI

Terah Lyons
Terah Lyons
Terah Lyons

An artificial intelligence research-and-policy organization set up by Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other tech giants is tapping the Obama administration’s former AI expert as its new leader.

Terah Lyons will now serve as the founding executive director at the Partnership for AI, a group that seeks to study the impact of powerful algorithms and machine learning on jobs and the economy — while addressing potential regulatory issues along the way.

Five companies — Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and IBM — formed the nonprofit in 2016, and tech giants like Apple joined it soon after. Currently, the partnership also counts among its ranks about 50 consumer groups, privacy advocates, tech-focused academics and others, some of whom have expressed concerns that AI could threaten privacy or contribute to discrimination. Together, though, they’re all set to meet in Berlin next week.

Lyons, for her part, arrives at the AI consortium after working as a tech policy fellow at the Mozilla Foundation. Before that, she served under former President Barack Obama, advising the White House’s work to study the use and effects of artificial intelligence.

A capstone of that effort was a 2016 report that explored the power of robotics, neural networks and machine-learning tools in everything from self-driving cars to precision medicine, along with a series of recommendations for how to tackle regulatory challenges posed by AI.

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