2018 Was the Year That Tech Put Limits on AI

WIRED | 12/22/2018 | Tom Simonite
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For the past several years, giant tech companies have rapidly ramped up investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning. They’ve competed intensely to hire more AI researchers and used that talent to rush out smarter virtual assistants and more powerful facial recognition. In 2018, some of those companies moved to put some guardrails around AI technology.

The most prominent example is Google, which announced constraints on its use of AI after two projects triggered public pushback and an employee revolt.

Dissent - Search - Company - Work - Pentagon

The internal dissent began after the search company’s work on a Pentagon program called Maven became public. Google contributed to a part of Maven that uses algorithms to highlight objects such as vehicles in drone surveillance imagery, easing the burden on military analysts. Google says its technology was limited to “nonoffensive” uses, but more more than 4,500 employees signed a letter calling for the company to withdraw.

In June, Google said it would complete but not renew the Maven contract, which is due to end in 2019. It also released a broad set of principles for its use of AI, including a pledge not to deploy AI systems for use in weapons or “other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people.” Based in part on those principles, Google in October withdrew from bidding on a Pentagon cloud contract called JEDI.

Google - Criticism - CEO - Sundar - Pichai

Google also drew criticism after CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated a bot called Duplex with a humanlike voice calling staff at a restaurant and hair salon to make reservations. Recipients of the calls did not appear to know they were talking with a piece of software, and the bot didn’t disclose its digital nature. Google later announced it would add disclosures. When WIRED tested Duplex ahead of its recent debut on Google’s Pixel phones, the bot began...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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