Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

In 2018, Google pledged not to use AI in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 20 January 2020

Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

  • Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used
  • Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology

LONDON: Google’s chief executive called Monday for a balanced approach to regulating artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also “negative consequences.”

Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used.

“There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. The question is how best to approach this,” Pichai said, according to a transcript of his speech at a Brussel-based think tank.

He noted that there’s an important role for governments to play and that as the European Union and the US start drawing up their own approaches to regulation, “international alignment” of any eventual rules will be critical. He did not provide specific proposals.

Pichai spoke on the same day he was scheduled to meet the EU’s powerful competition regulator, Margrethe Vestager.

Vestager has in previous years hit the Silicon Valley giant with multibillion-dollar fines for allegedly abusing its market dominance to choke off competition. After being reappointed for a second term last autumn with expanded powers over digital technology policies, Vestager has now set her sights on artificial intelligence, and is drawing up rules on its ethical use.

Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology. Vestager and the EU have been the among the more aggressive regulators of big tech firms, an approach US authorities have picked up with investigations into the dominance of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

“Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities,” he said, adding that it could incorporate existing standards like Europe’s tough General Data Protection Regulation rather than starting from scratch.

While it promises big benefits, he raised concerns about potential downsides of artificial intelligence, citing as one example its role in facial recognition technology, which can be used to find missing people but also for “nefarious reasons” which he didn’t specify.

In 2018, Google pledged not to use AI in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights.


China revokes three Wall Street Journal press cards over ‘Sick Man’ headline

Updated 19 February 2020

China revokes three Wall Street Journal press cards over ‘Sick Man’ headline

  • Wall Street Journal op-ed had a ‘racially discriminatory’ and ‘sensational’ headline

China said Wednesday it has revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters over an editorial headline it deemed racist, with the newspaper adding they had been ordered to leave in five days.
The expulsion, one of its harshest moves against foreign media in recent years, came as Beijing also slammed Washington’s decision to tighten rules on Chinese state media organizations in the US, calling the move “unreasonable and unacceptable.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the Journal editorial — which was titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” — had a “racially discriminatory” and “sensational” headline, and slammed the newspaper for not issuing an official apology.
“As such, China has decided that from today, the press cards of three Wall Street Journal reporters in Beijing will be revoked,” Geng told a press briefing.
The Journal reported that deputy bureau chief Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, both US nationals, as well as reporter Philip Wen, an Australian, had been ordered to leave the country in five days.
The editorial, written by Bard College professor Walter Russell Mead, also criticized the Chinese government’s initial response to the new coronavirus outbreak — calling the Wuhan city government at the virus epicenter “secretive and self-serving,” while dismissing national efforts as ineffective.
The February 3 piece “slandered the efforts of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to fight the epidemic,” said Geng.
The new coronavirus epidemic has killed over 2,000 people in China and infected more than 74,000, and has spread to at least two dozen countries around the world.