Has Google Smart Software Become the Sad Clown for AI?

April 20, 2021

“Is Google’s AI Research about to Implode?” raises an interesting question. The answer depends on whom one asks. For the high profile ethical AI Googlers who are now Xooglers (former Google employees), the answer is probably along the lines of “About. Okay, boomer, it has imploded.” Ask a Googler who still has a job at the GOOG and received a bonus for his or her work in smart software and the answer is probably more like, “Dude, we are AI.” With matters Googley, I am not sure where the truth exists.

The write up states:

in making certain “corrections” to large datasets, for example removing references to sex, the voices of LGBTQ people will be given less prominence. The lack of transparency and accountability in the data makes these models useless for anything other than generating amusing Guardian articles (my words, not the authors). But they have substantial negative consequences: in producing reams of factually incorrect texts and requiring computing resources that can have a major environmental impact.

Ah, ha, the roots of bias.

Google has not made enough progress is making its models neutral. Thus, human fiddling is required. And where there are humans fiddling, there are discordant notes.

The write up concludes with this statement:

What concerns me is that when Google’s own researchers start to produce novel ideas then the company perceives these as a threat. So much of a threat that they fire their most innovative researcher and shut down the groups that are doing truly novel work.

Right now, I think the Google wants to squelch talk about algorithmic “issues.”  Smart software appears to be related maximizing efficiency. The idea is that efficiency yields lower costs. Lower costs provide more cash to incentivize employees to find ways to improve, for example, ad auction efficiency. Ethics are not an emergent phenomenon of this type of system. The result is algorithmic road kill, a major PR problem, a glimpse of the inner Google, and writers who are skeptical about the world’s largest online ad vendor’s use of “smart” technology.

Stephen E Arnold, April 20, 2021

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