Google AI Council Collapsing After Only One Week

Google has recently created an external ethics council to deal with the complicated moral dilemmas associated with the use of artificial intelligence. The group was supposed to help Google appease critics while still chasing lucrative cloud computing deals.

However, in less than a week, the council is already collapsing, which is a development that may jeopardise Google’s chances of winning more of said military cloud-computing contracts.

On Saturday, Alessandro Acquisti, a behavioural economist and privacy researcher, stated he will not be serving on the council.

While I’m devoted to research grappling with key ethical issues of fairness, rights and inclusion in AI, I don’t believe this is the right forum for me to engage in this important work
— Alessandro Acquisti

Furthermore, on Monday, a collection of Google employees started a petition which demanded the company remove another member: Kay Coles James, the president of a conservative think-tank who has campaigned against equal-rights laws for gay and transgender people in the past. By late Monday, more than 500 staff had signed the petition anonymously.

A few AI experts and activists have also called on the company to remove Dyan Gibbens, the CEO of Trumbull Unmanned (a drone technology company), from the board. Gibbens and her co-founders at Trumbull had worked on producing U.S. military drones in the past. Using AI for military uses is a major point of dispute for many Google staff.

Joanna Bryson, a computer science professor at the University of Bath (United Kingdom) who was appointed to the council, said she too had concerns about some of her fellow council members.

Believe it or not, I know worse about one of the other people [than Coles James]. I know I have pushed [Google] before on some of their associations and they say they need diversity in order to be convincing to society broadly, e.g. the GOP.
— Joanna Bryson