Jan 20, 2020

Google CEO calls for balanced regulations on artificial intelligence

Photo: Carsten Koall/Getty Images.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is calling for regulations on artificial intelligence, warning that the technology can bring both positive and negative consequences, AP reports.

Why it matters: Lawmakers are largely scrambling to play catch-up on AI regulation as the technology continues to grow. Pichai did not provide specific proposals, but did urge while speaking at the Bruegel European economic think tank Monday that "international alignment" between the United States and the European Union will help ensure AI is used primarily for good.

  • Pichai also delivered his thoughts on the matter in an op-ed in the Financial Times Sunday, writing: "There are real concerns about the potential negative consequences of AI, from deepfakes to nefarious uses of facial recognition. While there is already some work being done to address these concerns, there will inevitably be more challenges ahead that no one company or industry can solve alone."

Our thought bubble: It’s not just industry; the U.S. government is also urging transatlantic consensus on AI regulation. That would deliver a unified counter to China’s authoritarian use of the technology. But it would also ensure Europe doesn’t charge ahead with more stringent AI regulation than Silicon Valley is prepared to accept. The EU already went it alone with its own firm privacy rules.

Flashback: Google has long grappled with the nuances of AI and government. The company in 2018 announced it wouldn’t re-up a controversial Pentagon contract to use AI to analyze drone footage, citing a conflict with its own principles on the tech.

The bottom line: The age of Silicon Valley regulating itself is over. The industry is now working to take as central a role as possible in shaping the laws that are likely coming.

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Climate activists target Big Tech over fossil fuel work

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Big Tech is making splash with its aggressive carbon reduction goals, but some of its employees and climate activists are criticizing Google, Microsoft and Amazon for nonetheless partnering with fossil fuel companies to use artificial intelligence to find hidden hydrocarbons and bring them to market.

Why it matters: Big oil companies are some of the richest, most resourceful enterprises in the world. They collect multiple terabytes of data daily but don't have the capacity to analyze and efficiently utilize that volume of facts without AI.

How tech leaders used Davos this year

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

DAVOS, Switzerland — Tech leaders once were given a free pass (literally and figuratively) as the young darlings of Davos, but they're now the established leaders, with a heightened role as well as added scrutiny.

  • While U.S.-China tensions were high on tech leaders' list, they also came to push their points on climate change, antitrust and AI regulation.
Go deeperArrowJan 25, 2020

How AI, surveillance and biometrics could converge in a tech arms race

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Visual China Group via Getty Images

DAVOS, Switzerland — Historian and philosopher Yuval Harari urged the U.S. and China to stop AI, surveillance and biometrics from converging before it is too late.

The big picture: Harari passionately warned his Davos audience that humanity could become entirely subject to AI and biometrics, with risks including "data colonialism" and "digital dictatorships" that could imprison someone if, for example, their biological data suggests they are not sufficiently loyal.