Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai says AI is ‘too important not to’ be regulated

The power and potential of AI are not in dispute, but how we manage and control it is a controversial topic. Sundar Pichai has pitched in, saying that the technology that companies produce should harness their power for good

Sundar Pichai, new CEO of Alphabet
Sundar Pichai is calling for AI to be regulated. Image: Google

AI and forces for good

Artificial intelligence is one of the biggest focuses of our time, in the field of technological innovation. We have been reporting on the new tech that AI is facilitating, as well as the drive for tighter controls.

This is an interesting stance for Pichai to take. Google is, arguably, one of the largest AI organisations in the world. Their resources in terms of R&D are extraordinary. So I was fairly surprised to learn about how the newly appointed CEO of both Google and Alphabet is calling for tighter industry controls.

Are we witnessing a shift change at Google in the ether?

Google HQ
Google has just hit the trillion-dollar market cap. Image: Flickr

The value of intelligence

The puzzle in terms of AI is how we regulate activity that would not be possible without the investment of private companies. We reported over the weekend how Google has just hit an astonishing trillion-dollar market cap. Google now joins Apple, Amazon and Microsoft as the fourth US company to hit this scale.

For a corporation of this immense size to be advocating systems of control is unusual, to say the least. The thing is, that I think Pichai is spot on. He says:

Companies such as ours cannot just build promising new technology and let market forces decide how it will be used. It is equally incumbent on us to make sure that technology is harnessed for good and available to everyone

Competitive commerce

Google takes a firm stance on where they are prepared to go with AI. For example, they refuse to sell facial recognition technology. This in itself could be seen as a commercially advantageous stance to take.

Amazon, on the other hand, doesn’t have any such policies surrounding this technology. So it Pichai very subtly trying to hint at Google’s superior ethical stance, without coming right out with a call for such tech to be regulated?

Or is he genuinely setting a line in the sand in the hope that other companies will follow Google’s example?

Sir Tim Berners-Lee on stage
Google has committed to Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s Contract for the Web. Image: Web Foundation

Controlling tech

It’s really hard to say, but whatever the motivations the fact remains that I support his statements.

In the US, there is a movement towards a vague level of AI regulation. In the EU, it seems likely that much more stringent measures will be introduced. There is a suggestion that all facial recognition AI will be banned for a five year period.

Needless to say, higher regulation means heavier costs. Pichai must recognize that being regulated will perhaps hinder their operations.

He says that Google is setting an example, asprinciples that remain on paper are meaningless‘. I couldn’t agree more.

Interestingly, Google is one of the largest firms to sign up for Tim Berners-Lee’s Contract for the Web. This initiative invites corporations to sign up to a set of principles aimed at making the internet a place for positive developments to benefit humankind.

As it happens, neither Amazon nor Microsoft has signed on the dotted line.

A true advocate for good, or a clever PR stunt? You decide…

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