Google cans AI ethics board after just one week

After just one week, Google is going back to the drawing board and canning its external advisory board that was aimed at keeping an eye on the company’s developments in artificial intelligence.

The board, called the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) was aimed to bring together an academic A-team to keep an eye on Google’s efforts in AI, and to ensure they hew close to the AI practices set out by Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai last year.

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In additional to several leading academics, the company also included several policymakers, and one of these, Kay Coles James, caused huge issues for the company. James, the president of Heritage Foundation and a noted conservative figure,caused controversy with his appointment as he is known to have sought to combat the extension of transgender rights and efforts to fight climate change. If you want to complete the yikes trifecta, he’s also openly discussed popular anti-LGBTQI talking points.

This led to protests by Google employees while many inside and outside of the company were critical of James’ role on the board. As Google is already under the microscope when it comes to AI tech after the discovery last year that the Big G was working with the Pentagon on drone technology that took advantage of Google’s efforts in machine learning.

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So, it seems like the PR disaster of James involvement is enough for Google to wash their hands of the whole thing and they’ve scrapped the ATEAC entirely. It was a good week, I guess. 

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Speaking to the Verge, a Google Spokesperson said: “It’s become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can’t function as we wanted,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge. “So we’re ending the council and going back to the drawing board. We’ll continue to be responsible in our work on the important issues that AI raises, and will find different ways of getting outside opinions on these topics.”

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