Google’s Sundar Pichai on artificial intelligence: Threat to humans real; there’s a need for regulation

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Updated: Dec 15, 2018 2:51 PM

Sundar Pichai said that AI is the main tool behind new-age innovation and discoveries like driverless cars or disease detecting algorithm. However, the companies need to make sure that the technology can't be illegally exploited or abused.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai (Agencies)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, in an interview with The Washington Post this week, said that the fears and concerns about the harmful application of artificial intelligence and other technology, in general, are very legitimate. He also requested the people to have trust in the technology industry and its responsibility in regulating it.

In the interview, Pichai said that AI is the main tool behind new-age innovation and discoveries like driverless cars or disease detecting algorithm. However, the companies need to make sure that the technology can’t be illegally exploited or abused. He also added that the tech industry needs to make sure that the artificial robots with “agency of their own” does not harm the people.

Sundar Pichai’s assessment of the risks of AI does not match with those of many other prominent tech critics.

Unlike Elon Musk, SpaceX and Tesla founder has offered a much appalling prediction about AI, saying ‘it could prove to be much dangerous that nuclear weapons’. pichai had said after joining as CEO of Google, that AI is one of the ‘most important things the humankind is working on right now’

The world still has not grasped the effects of AI or the need of government regulations, Pichai said in the Washington Post interview. “I worry about people underestimating the mid to long-term changes that AI can bring,” he said.

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AI can be tremendously beneficial, said to the Tech Giant CEO. From detecting eye disease to automated scans of health data, it can help the medicine field immensely. “Google has tried to put in a set of AI principles. Though everything might not be right at the moment, we tried to start it, even though regulation in the early days is hard,” Pichai said.

The race to come up with machines and robots that can work on their own, has left Silicon valley fearful of eliminating jobs and harming people through these ‘powerful, imperfect technology’, Washington Post reported.

In June this year, Google included a general ban on developing systems that could be used to harm and damage human rights. However, the company also faced criticism earlier for releasing AI tools which could be misused in wrong hands. Like one of Google’s machine learning software, which was released to speed up the development of AI, ended up creating lifelike fake videos! Pichai, however, defended Google’s move.

In the interview, he said, “Technology is going to affect humanity, and that’s why humanity needs to be involved in a more representative way.”

Sundar Pichai also informed that AI can be used to develop autonomous weapons – an issue that has left many of the top tech executives worried. In July this year, several Tech companies including Google has signed a pledge, to not develop any AI tools that could be programmed to kill.

Google needs to develop a better system to root out hateful, conspiratory content on platforms like YouTube, indicated the CEO in the interview. He was also called in for a Congress hearing for a video discussing baseless allegation against Hillary Clinton.

However, when asked about the coveted Project Dragonfly, whether it will really help Chinese officials to know who searches for sensitive information like Tiananmen Square massacre, he refused to answer saying, it’s too soon to make judgements. This is the same project that had caused a backlash from Google employees and Human rights activists on tech giant Google.

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