Google Appoints "AI Council" to Keep Them "Honest"

Google has announced an independent board to review all AI projects.
Jessica Miley

Google is trying to fend off controversy by appointing an “AI council’ to oversee its Artificial intelligence projects. But the council, made up of philosophers, scientists and engineers, is already under fire from critics.


Google’s senior vice president for global affairs and chief legal officer, Kent Walker announced the independent body at EmTech Digital, an AI conference in San Francisco organized by MIT Technology Review

The group called Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) is tasked with the job to review the company’s AI projects and plans and report back to the executive if any of them break Google’s existing AI principles.

Keep us honest

The council isn’t given a set agenda nor can it completely veto projects but it would act as a tool to help the company “honest.” 

The initial ATEAC panel is comprised of Alessandro Acquisti, Bubacarr Bah, De Kai, Dyan Gibbens, Joanna Bryson, Kay Coles James, Luciano Floridi, and William Joseph Burns. Among which share job titles as diverse as philosopher, economist, public policy expert, and robotics researcher.

Despite the seemingly good idea, the panel is already facing criticism due to the inclusion of Gibbens and James. Dyan Gibbens is the CEO of Trumbull Uncrewed a drone company that collects and analyzes data via drones in energy and defense.

Google can't shake Maven mixup

This is rather an unusual choice as the intense scrutiny Google faced over Project Maven which involved the supply of Google cloud AI to the US Air Force for the analysis of drone imagery.

Google employees went on strike until the company announced it would not renew its contract for the project. The internal backlash prompted Google to announce a set of AI principles in the first place.

Poor council choices

Kay Coles James is the president of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation. An organization that has been accused of spreading misinformation about climate change. 

During the announcement, Walker described how Google was already working hard to weight up the ethics of projects and that as AI technology changed so would the company.

He recognized that misinformation and AI-powered video manipulation were of high priority concerns. “How do we detect this across our platforms? We are working very hard on this,” he said. “We are a search engine, not a truth engine.”

Trump gives Google the thumbs up

The CEO of Google Sundar Pichai met with the United States President Donald Trump yesterday to discuss the company's operations in China. Trump tweeted that the meeting had been successful and that Google has reiterated its allegiance to the U.S rather than the Chinese Military.

Some senior Republicans had accused the tech giant of working too closely with Chinese authorities on AI technology. Other Republicans had gone as far as to accuse Google of suppressing search results that show conservatives in a favorable light.

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