Google CEO: Building AI responsibly is the only race that really matters

The writer is the CEO of Google and Alphabet

This year, generative AI captured the world’s imagination. It’s already used by millions of people to boost creativity and improve productivity. Meanwhile, more startups and organizations are bringing AI-based products and technologies to market faster than ever before.

Artificial intelligence is the most profound technology humanity is working on today; it will affect all industries and areas of life. Given these high stakes, the more people working to advance the science of artificial intelligence, the better the opportunities for communities everywhere.

While some have tried to reduce this moment to just a competitive AI race, we see it as much more than that. At Google, we’ve been applying artificial intelligence to our products and services and making them accessible to users for more than a decade. We care deeply about this. More importantly, though, is the race to build AI responsibly and ensure that we, as a society, do well.

We approach this in three ways. First, by boldly pursuing innovations to make AI more useful for everyone. We continue to use AI to significantly improve our products—from Google Search and Gmail to Android and Maps. These improvements mean that drivers across Europe can find more fuel-efficient routes; helping tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees communicate in their new homes; Flood forecasting tools can predict floods. Google DeepMind’s work on AlphaFold, in collaboration with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, has led to a ground-breaking understanding of the more than 200 million cataloged proteins known to science and opened up new opportunities for health.

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We’re also focused on enabling people outside our company to innovate with AI, whether through our cloud offerings and APIs or through new initiatives like Google for Startups Growth program, which supports European entrepreneurs using artificial intelligence to improve people’s health and well-being. We are launching a social innovation fund in artificial intelligence to help social enterprises solve Europe’s most pressing challenges.

Second, we ensure that technology is developed and deployed responsibly, reflecting our deep commitment to earning the trust of our users. That’s why we published the AI ​​Principles in 2018, rooted in the belief that AI should be developed to benefit society while avoiding harmful applications.

We have many examples of putting these principles into practice, such as building in constraints to limit abuse of our universal translator. This experimental AI video dubbing service helps experts translate a speaker’s voice and match lip movements. It has enormous potential for improving learning comprehension, but we know the risks it can pose in the hands of the wrong actors, so we made it available only to authorized partners. As AI evolves, so does our approach: this month, we announced that we’re providing ways to identify when we’ve used it to create content on our services.

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Finally, realizing the potential of AI is not something that one company can do alone. In 2020, I shared my view that AI should be regulated to balance innovation and potential harm. As technology is now at an inflection point and I return to Europe this week, I continue to believe that AI is too important not to regulate and too important not to regulate well.

Developing policy frameworks that anticipate potential harms and unlock benefits will require in-depth discussions between governments, industry experts, publishers, academia and civil society. Legislators may not need to start from scratch: existing regulations provide a useful framework for addressing the potential risks of new technologies. However, continued investment in research and development for responsible AI will be important – as will ensuring the safe use of AI, particularly where regulation is still evolving.

Increased international cooperation will be key. The USA and Europe are strategic allies and partners. It is important that the two work together to create a solid, innovation-supportive framework for emerging technology, based on shared values ​​and goals. We will continue to work with experts, social scientists and entrepreneurs on both sides of the Atlantic to develop standards for responsible AI development.

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AI offers the world a once-in-a-generation opportunity to meet its climate goals, build sustainable growth, maintain global competitiveness, and more. However, we are still in the early days and have a lot of work to do. We look forward to doing this work with others and building artificial intelligence together in a safe and responsible way for everyone to benefit.