phone using a voice that sounds so human,
the recipients of the calls weren’t aware it
was a robot talking until the company was
forced in the wake of public complaints to
have Duplex identify itself.
The full reach of Google’s AI influence
stretches far beyond the company’s offerings.
Outside developers—at startups and big corporations alike—now use Google’s AI tools to
do everything from training smart satellites
to monitoring changes to the earth’s surface
to rooting out abusive language on Twitter
(well, it’s trying). There are now millions of
devices using Google AI, and this is just the
beginning. Google is on the verge of achieving what’s known as quantum supremacy.
This new breed of computer will be able to
crack complex equations a million or more
times faster than regular ones. We are about
to enter the rocket age of computing.
Used for good, artificial intelligence has
the potential to help society. It may find cures
to deadly diseases (Google execs say that its
intelligent machines have demonstrated
the ability to detect lung cancer a full year
earlier than human doctors), feed the hungry, and even heal the climate. A paper
submitted to a Cornell University science journal in June by several leading AI
researchers (including ones affiliated with Google) identified several ways ma-
chine learning can address climate change, from accelerating the development
of solar fuels to radically optimizing energy usage.
Used for ill, AI has the potential to empower tyrants, crush human rights, and
destroy democracy, freedom, and privacy. The American Civil Liberties Union issued a report in June titled “The Dawn of Robot Surveillance” that warned how
millions of surveillance cameras (such as those sold by Google) already installed
across the United States could employ AI to enable government monitoring and
control of citizens. This is already happening in parts of China. A lawsuit filed that
same month accuses Google of using AI in hospitals to violate patients’ privacy.
Every powerful advance in human history has been used for both good and
evil. The printing press enabled the spread of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”
but also Adolf Hitler’s fascist manifesto “Mein Kampf.” With AI, however, there’s
an extra dimension to this predicament: The printing press doesn’t choose the
type it sets. AI, when it achieves its full potential, would be able to do just that.
Now is the time to ask questions. “Think about the kinds of thoughts you
wish people had inventing fire, starting the industrial revolution, or [devel-oping] atomic power,” says Greg Brockman, cofounder of OpenAI, a startup
focused on building artificial general intelligence that received a $1 billion
investment from Microsoft in July.
Parties on both the political left and right argue that Google is too big and needs
to be broken up. Would a fragmented Google democratize AI? Or, as leaders at the
company warn, would it hand AI supremacy to the Chinese government, which