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Google CEO Sundar Pichai says internal dissent over AI due to company transparency

Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sundar Pichai said the intensity of employee dissent about Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) work seemed so because it is transparent.

“Part of the reason you see a lot of debate, I mean, we engage as a company,” Pichai said Thursday during a World Economic Forum discussion, according to Bloomberg. “We are a lot more transparent than most other companies, and so you do see us in the middle of these issues. I take it as a sign that we allow for debate to happen around this area, and we need to get better as a company. We are committed to doing so.”

The CEO said that it is an important part of Google’s culture to listen to the staff and work with employee groups on sustainability and diversity and inclusion efforts.

For those who are not aware, a former Google employee, Timnit Gebru, showed the world in December how facial recognition algorithms are better at identifying White people than Black people. The company has said she resigned; however, controversy raged when she said she was fired after the company demanded she retracts a research paper she co-authored that questioned an AI technology at the heart of Google’s search engine. A petition in favor of Gebru was signed by around 2,700 Googlers and more than 4,300 academics and civil society supporters. 

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Pichai apologized via a memo to employees and did not call it either a firing or resignation but said, “we need to accept responsibility for the fact that a prominent Black, a female leader with immense talent left Google unhappily,” according to Gadgets 360.

Recently, the American tech giant is being targeted on issues related to antitrust. Whether the company should pay publishers for news by regulators from the European Union to Australia to the U.S. While the company is fighting many of these efforts, Pichai is hopeful of seeing more regulation in some areas, including “an international accord on AI safety and quantum computing and guidance from governments on content moderation and free speech online.”

Digital misinformation “is bigger than any single company,” he said. “It is here to stay. As a society, we need to develop the next set of frameworks to function through that. That’s the debate we’re in the middle of.”

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