Google announced on April 4th, 2019 that it would dissolve the council in order to consider the ethical issues going on about AI and other newer technologies. The council was formed last week. The council ran into controversy due to two of its members. The online news portal Vox was the first one to report the dissolution of the council.
The council was created on March 26 in order to offer recommendations to Google and other companies as well as researchers who are working in emerging technology areas like facial recognition software and so on. The facial recognition software had raised concerns about limitations like racial bias and so on.
The council consisted of eight members and was referred to by the name Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC). The members included digital ethicists as well as technology experts.
In an email statement, a Google representative said that it has become clear in the present environment that the council will not be able to function as expected initially. The representative also mentioned that Google is going back to the drawing board to come with a better solution.
According to the Vox report, apparently, Google employees had signed a petition which called for the removal of one of the members of the council due to comments about transsexual people. The inclusion of an executive of a drone company also raised concerns about the probable use of Google’s artificial intelligence technology for military applications.
A petition was published online that called Google to remove Heritage Foundation’s Kay Coles James from the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council due to her vocal statements that were anti-immigrant, anti- LGBTQ and anti-trans. The petition stated that by selecting James, Google was making clear where it stands on the wellbeing of immigrants, LGBTQ as well as trans people.
The group behind the petition managed to get 2,300 signatures from Google employees, academics and others which included technology industry peers. The controversy has cropped up as the world tries to learn how to balance the potential benefits of using artificial intelligence along with the risks it poses when used against people or even its creators.
Sundar Pichai, the Google Chief said in an interview that tech companies invested in building artificial technology need to factor in ethics as early as possible in the process to make sure that AI with an agenda of its own does not end up hurting people.