After Just One Week, Google’s AI Ethics Board Is No More

Google’s AI Ethics Board, called the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) ran for just one week before being shut down.

The ATEAC was composed of many prominent academics in an array of fields active in the AI discussion, such as philosophy, robotics and psychology.

However, the council came under intense fire for its inclusion of other members which were quite controversial. Some of the figures had policy backgrounds or were former U.S. presidential administration members.

For example, Kay Coles James, Heritage Foundation president, was included on the AI ethics council. He is a noted conservative, anti-LGBTQ figure who has fought against transgender rights and refused climate change through the Heritage Foundation.

Much of the backlash the ATEAC received was due to the makeup of the board and speculation about how Google has chosen its members. Some thought that it was a move to appease conservative lawmakers to curry favor going forward with AI regulation research.

The AI board’s goal was to ensure that any tech produced by Google followed its AI Principles, which CEO Sundar Pichai outlined last year.

Google has pledged to never develop AI weaponry or work on an AI project which violates “internationally accepted norms” or “widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.”

Things started to crumble for the Google board when Carnegie Mellon Professor Alessandro Acquisti stepped down. He wrote on Twitter: “While I’m devoted to research grappling with key ethical issues of fairness, rights, and inclusion of AI, I don’t believe this is the right forum for me to engage in this important work.”

After his message, thousands of people working at Google had signed a petition for James’ immediate removal from the advisory board. Google went all in and dissolved the entire board.

Eric Silver

Eric Silver

Eric Silver is a veteran technology blogger and startup enthusiast that's been covering the global technology scene since the most advanced phones were still folding in half.