Alphabet cofounder Sergey Brin penned this year’s Founders’ Letter, which outlined the company’s AI applications and the potential risks of our AI-powered future.
The Alphabet Founders’ Letter has been released annually by CEO Larry Page and/or cofounder Sergey Brin since 2004. In this year’s letter, Sergey focuses on artificial intelligence and the potential benefits and risks for our society.
Brin writes, “When we started the company [Google, 1998], neural networks were a forgotten footnote in computer science; a remnant of the AI winter of the 1980’s.”
Now, however, that’s all changed.
Sergey Brin’s List of Things AI Does for Alphabet
Sergey goes on regarding AI: “Yet today, this broad brush of technology has found an astounding number of applications. We now use it to:
- understand images in Google Photos;
- enable Waymo cars to recognize and distinguish objects safely;
- significantly improve sound and camera quality in our hardware;
- understand and produce speech for Google Home;
- translate over 100 languages in Google Translate;
- caption over a billion videos in 10 languages on YouTube;
- improve the efficiency of our data centers;
- suggest short replies to emails;
- help doctors diagnose diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy;
- discover new planetary systems;
- create better neural networks (AutoML);
… and much more.”Brin asserts that we are in a technological renaissance brought about by the frequent evolutions in AI capabilities. Indeed, the Alphabet executive warns that with these new powerful tools come new considerations and new responsibilities.
Why the Evolution of AI Concerns Alphabet Top-dog
Among the list of concerns that Brin gives in the founder’s note, the broad range of AI safety seems to receive the most focus. Brin mentions that the company has considered the ethical implications of allowing AI to take control of self-driving cars and endowing AI with “Sci-Fi-like sentience.”
To address this, Brin lists a few of Alphabet’s AI-safety initiatives:
“A few of our noteworthy initiatives on AI safety are as follows:
- Bringing Precision to the AI Safety Discussion
- DeepMind Ethics & Society
- PAIR: People+AI Research Initiative
- Partnership on AI“
While artificial intelligence seems to be the underlying technology in all of the Alphabet subsidiaries that Brin mentions, he was also keen to mention that collaboration is still vital for the company as a whole. In particular, he mentions the excellent relationship between Google machine learning arms of Google Brain and DeepMind.
Brin concludes by mentioning that Alphabet’s main goal is maintaining “deep responsibility, care, and humility” with the application of its most powerful technologies.