EDITORIAL: How Google’s ′ Do the Right Thing’ Could Go Wrong
Fearing the risks posed by an advanced artificial intelligence program, Google bowed out of the Pentagon’s Maven program, through which the tech giant has long led the offensive in the technological field.
Google partnered with the Defense Department to provide AI solutions for video imaging, but fearing their work would be weaponized and used for potential drone strikes, many of Google’s AI researchers protested.
Though its grounds for concerns aren’t unreasonable, Google’s stated reasons for leaving the program reek of an unnecessary political correctness sure to creep into the rest of the company’s work -- and that could prove worrisome.
The company decided its former motto, “Don’t be evil,” no longer covered its bases. Their motto is now, “Do the right thing,” accompanied by additional vows to advance safety, accountability, privacy, and “scientific excellence,” while simultaneously promising to ensure its work is “socially beneficial,” avoiding “unjust impacts” on people with “sensitive characteristics,” which include nationality, and political and religious beliefs.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with these expectations. They’re even admirable when applied to such an uncertain, controversial field as AI. But they do raise some questions about the future of the company as it retreats from national security work and seemingly toward an agenda that favors a narrow and censorious ideology.
The fact is that Google is certain to play a powerful role in the growing debate over what online voices must be silenced for the good of humanity. The more the internet draws unorthodox and extreme views into the mainstream, the more Americans will be tempted to impose regulatory solutions, and the more tech companies enamored with doing “the right thing” will continue to push users and content they don’t like to the margins -- or beyond.
That approach is more likely to harm America’s fortunes than help it, and more likely to fail than succeed. For a company of such a size and strategic significance, this recent move is discouraging -- part of a trend that could quickly grow dismaying over time.
-- LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS