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10 June 2018, 11:07 | Joann Bryant
Google’s new ethics rules forbid using its AI for weapons
Last month, Google faced criticism for its involvement in Project Maven - a Pentagon program using AI to analyze drone footage. Should this prove to be more than window dressing, it is a refreshing change to see a company taking corporate responsibility for the repercussions of its work. To placate employees, Google promised a new ethics policy around AI development, which the company made public on Thursday.
Broadly speaking, the rules laid out state that anything that could cause harm will, as stated, be limited to where benefit outweighs risk, and even then appropriate safety restraints will be deployed.
In a blog post, Sundar Pichai explains that Google will still work with governments in areas like training and cybersecurity, but other things will be limited.
Only weapons that have a "principal purpose" of causing injury will be avoided, but it's unclear which weapons that refers to.
He said Google would strive to make high-quality and accurate information readily available using AI, while "continuing to respect cultural, social, and legal norms in the countries where it operates".
But it will continue (it says) to work to "limit potentially harmful or abusive applications" of AI.
Technologies that cause or are likely to cause overall harm. Representative Pete King, a New York Republican, tweeted on Thursday that Google not seeking to extend the drone deal "is a defeat for USA national security".
A fourth area Google says it won't design or deploy AI in are technologies whose main goal is to directly injure people.
"How artificial intelligence develops and uses will have a significant impact on society for many years. These collaborations are important and we'll actively look for more ways to augment the critical work of these organizations and keep service members and civilians safe", he said. Google's success is built on the people it attracts, and its ability to attract the right people is through its outstanding brand and reputation.
Google's Project Maven with the US Defence Department came under fire from company employees concerned about the direction it was taking the company.
A Google official, requesting anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue, said the company would not have joined the drone project a year ago had the principles already been in place.
Google said it would not pursue AI applications meant to cause physical injury, that tie into surveillance "violating internationally accepted norms of human rights, ' or that present greater 'material risk of harm" than countervailing benefits.
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