Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Source: AFP

How does Google decide which AI projects are right for you?

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) is a subject that’s received quite a lot of attention over the past few years.

At first, people didn’t believe it was anything more than science fiction. When they finally believed it was real, they didn’t think it would have real-world applications for the next decade or so.

Finally, when things began taking shape, people started fearing AI and thinking they’d lose their jobs and control of the world, to these “algorithms”.

However, businesses must think rationally about which AI projects they choose to invest in and how it will not only impact their business but also the world around them.

Google, for example, has set seven principles that it uses to assess AI applications. According to a blog post by the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai, it believes AI should:

1. Be socially beneficial

Google expects AI to play a transformative role in healthcare, security, energy, transportation, manufacturing, and entertainment.

In fact, AI enhances our ability to understand the meaning of content at scale. It’s why the company hopes to make high-quality and accurate information readily available using AI, while continuing to respect cultural, social, and legal norms.

Google also intends to “thoughtfully evaluate” when to make their technologies available on a non-commercial basis.

“As we consider potential development and uses of AI technologies, we will take into account a broad range of social and economic factors, and will proceed where we believe that the overall likely benefits substantially exceed the foreseeable risks and downsides,” explained Pichai.

2. Avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias

AI algorithms and datasets can reflect, reinforce, or reduce unfair biases.

Google recognizes that distinguishing fair from unfair biases is not always simple, and differs across cultures and societies.

Through the use of AI, the company intends to avoid the unjust impact of sensitive characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, income, sexual orientation, ability, and political or religious belief, on people.

3. Be built and tested for safety

Google aims to develop and apply strong safety and security practices to avoid unintended results that create risks of harm.

“We will design our AI systems to be appropriately cautious, and seek to develop them in accordance with best practices in AI safety research,” promised Pichai.

Where appropriate, the company will test AI technologies in constrained environments and monitor their operation after deployment.

4. Be accountable to people

“We will design AI systems that provide appropriate opportunities for feedback, relevant explanations, and appeal. Our AI technologies will be subject to appropriate human direction and control,” said Pichai.

5. Incorporate privacy design principles

“We will incorporate our privacy principles in the development and use of our AI technologies. We will give an opportunity for notice and consent, encourage architectures with privacy safeguards, and provide appropriate transparency and control over the use of data,” suggested Pichai.

6. Uphold high standards of scientific excellence

Technological innovation is rooted in the scientific method and a commitment to open inquiry, intellectual rigor, integrity, and collaboration.

Google recognizes that AI tools have the potential to unlock new realms of scientific research and knowledge in critical domains like biology, chemistry, medicine, and environmental sciences.

Hence, the company aspires to high standards of scientific excellence as we work to progress AI development.

“We will work with a range of stakeholders to promote thoughtful leadership in this area, drawing on scientifically rigorous and multidisciplinary approaches. And we will responsibly share AI knowledge by publishing educational materials, best practices, and research that enable more people to develop useful AI applications,” explained Pichai.

7. Be made available for uses that accord with these principles

The company’s CEO recognizes that many technologies have multiple uses.

Hence, the company will work to limit potentially harmful or abusive applications. As they develop and deploy AI technologies, they will evaluate likely uses in light of the following factors:

  • Primary purpose and use: the primary purpose and likely use of a technology and application, including how closely the solution is related to or adaptable to a harmful use
  • Nature and uniqueness: whether we are making available technology that is unique or more generally available
  • Scale: whether the use of this technology will have a significant impact
  • Nature of Google’s involvement: whether we are providing general-purpose tools, integrating tools for customers, or developing custom solutions

Further, the CEO announced that the firm will not pursue AI that can cause harm or injury, or help surveille or contravene widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.

However, Pichai’s post explained: “Where there is a material risk of harm, we will proceed only where we believe that the benefits substantially outweigh the risks, and will incorporate appropriate safety constraints.”

In conclusion, Pichai said:

“We want to be clear that while we are not developing AI for use in weapons, we will continue our work with governments and the military in many other areas.

“These include cybersecurity, training, military recruitment, veterans’ healthcare, and search and rescue.

“These collaborations are important and we’ll actively look for more ways to augment the critical work of these organizations and keep service members and civilians safe.”