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Google’s ethical AI watchdog falls apart after a week

Google’s ethical AI watchdog falls apart after a week

Google’s independent AI watchdog, the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council, seems to be falling apart a week after its launch. Members are severely criticised by previous statements or positions or step up themselves. The external advisory body monitors the company for compliance with ethical principles in the field of artificial intelligence.

The watchdog does not have the right of veto, but is meant to be able to deal with critics, so that Google can pursue lucrative cloud computing deals. For example, the company’s decisions are monitored, regular meetings are held and the board produces reports on developments in the field and Google’s technology. Only now it is the members themselves who have to endure the necessary criticism, according to IT Pro Today.

For example, yesterday over 500 Google employees anonymously signed a petition asking Kay Coles James to be removed from the board. Coles James is president of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation. She fought against laws relating to equal rights for homosexuals and transgender people.

This is not the first time that Google employees have taken action. They had already fought for equal pay for women and against sexual harassment. In addition, they fought for AI ethics and there were frowned upon eyebrows when it came to doing business with China. Protests that all turned out to be effective. Google withdrew from a large deal with the U.S. Army to build object recognition technology for drones. The company also changed its policy on dealing with complaints about sexual harassment.

Doubts within board

But members themselves also have reservations about some of their fellow members. Joanna Bryson, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Bath, England, posted a message on Twitter following the commotion surrounding Coles James. She says there are worse people on the board than the disputed president of the think tank. Something she says she informed Google about, but the company would have expressed its desire to strive for diversity in order to be able to convince the wider society.

According to critics, Dyan Gibbens, CEO of drone company Trumbull Unmanned, should also resign. Gibbens is said to have previously worked on the development of American military drones. Something that may be called remarkable, given that the use of AI for military use is an important ethical bone of contention for a number of Google employees.

Alessandro Acquisti, a behavioural economist and privacy researcher, withdrew from the council last Saturday: While I focus on research that struggles with important ethical issues of justice, rights and inclusion at AI, I don’t believe this is the right forum for me.

Google invests heavily in AI

Google has spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying AI startups. In addition, the company invests a lot of money in leading researchers so that they can join the company. AI is therefore seen as Google’s future core business. According to IT Pro Today, AI technology is also the key to the sales pitch for its cloud business. This is also becoming increasingly important, as the growth in turnover from search ads is declining.

Related: Microsoft employees refuse to build military Hololens

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give Techzine.eu a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.