Google Dissolves AI Ethics Board One Week After Launch

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Founded to guide “responsible development of AI” at Google, the council was supposed meet four times in 2019 and publish a report at the end of the year.

 Google on Thursday confirmed that it has dissolved a recently assembled artificial intelligence ethics advisory panel, following a week of controversy over its membership.

The formation of the eight-member advisory board, called Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC), was recently announced at a conference organised at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in San Francisco.

The decision to dissolve the panel came just days after a group of Google employees launched a public campaign against one of the board members – Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James – over her controversial comments against the LGBTQ and immigrant communities in the past.

According to Vox news website, another board member had already resigned, and the inclusion of a drone company executive had rekindled concerns about the potential use of the company’s AI for military applications.

“It’s become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can’t function as we wanted. So, we’re ending the council and going back to the drawing board,” a Google spokesperson told Vox.

The spokesperson added that Google will look for alternative ways to get outside inputs regarding responsible use of artificial intelligence.

What led to the end of the board?   

Founded to guide “responsible development of AI” at Google, the council was supposed meet four times in 2019 and publish a report at the end of the year.

However, the board received fierce backlash the same day it was announced, as Google gave no insight into how it chose its members.

The backlash mounted when Carnegie Mellon Professor Alessandro Acquisti last Saturday announced on Twitter that he was stepping down. He tweeted, “While I’m devoted to research grappling with key ethical issues of fairness, rights & inclusion in AI, I don’t believe this is the right forum for me to engage in this important work.”

Meanwhile, the petition to remove Kay Coles James also attracted more than 2,300 signatures from academics, Google employees and others, including technology industry peers.

Further, the inclusion of Dyan Gibbens, CEO of Houston-based drone startup Trumbull, as a board member raised concerns among its employees that AI may be used for military applications.

 

Longjam Dineshwori

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