SILICON VALLEY, ETHICS, AND AI — SIGNAL READERS RESPOND​

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the backlash within Google over its participation in Project Maven, a Pentagon program designed to improve the use of image recognition in drone surveillance footage. I asked readers whether grassroots pressure could act as an effective brake on controversial uses of AI. One well-placed Signal reader in Silicon Valley was skeptical: “Money matters to people,” he replied. Most employees who have invested time and resources in building a career at Google aren’t likely to leave if it starts dabbling in military AI, particularly when military collaboration is only likely ever to be a small part of what Google does. Still, our reader wrote, “We should be careful, nonetheless.”


Google subsequently backed away from the Pentagon project, but a set of new AI principles published by CEO Sundar Pichai in the wake of the controversy made clear that the company would work with governments and the military in other areas that don’t involve weapons or human harm, like cybersecurity. Despite Google’s attempt to draw a clear line on the issue, the boundaries between what constitutes direct harm and mere support for the military’s mission are blurry. Growing US-China competition in AI is also a factor here, according to another reader, who argued that if grassroots movements curtail AI development in the US, “we can rest assured China will extend its lead in this area.” That’s a concern shared by more than a few people in Washington. Google may have backed down in this case, but given these pressures, the debate over tech companies’ involvement in defense and law enforcement is far from over.

The goal of Eni's High Performance Computing is to perfect and industrialize low carbon energy technologies developed in collaboration with research centers. Eni's efforts are helping to generate energy from waves and guarantee access to energy in remote areas thanks to light-weight and flexible organic photovoltaic panels


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Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, explains the feud between Trump and Twitter and weighs in on Elon Musk's ambitious space plans:

What is happening between Trump and Twitter?

A lot. Twitter decided it had to fact check the president because the president said something that wasn't entirely true, and perhaps was false, about voting. Twitter cares a lot about lies about voting. So, they fact check Trump. Trump got really mad, said he's going to get rid of some of the laws that protect Twitter from liability when people say bad things on their platform. That started war number one.

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Trump promised a statement about China. Today's announcement was not about China. Most significant was about the World Health Organization, which is a distraction for Trump because it's weaker. They're reliant on the US, have no ability to hit back. But announcing they're pulling all funding and pulling out of the World Health Organization, the international governmental organization tasked with responding to pandemics, in the middle of a pandemic, is one of the stupidest foreign policy decisions that President Trump could make.

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The world's worst health crisis in a hundred years might not seem like the best time for the World Health Organization's biggest financial supporter to threaten to pull the plug on its operations, but that's where we are. On Friday afternoon, President Trump announced that the US is withdrawing entirely from the Organization.

The move comes ten days after the White House sent a withering four-page letter to the organization's Director General which accused the organization of ignoring early warnings about the virus' spread and bowing to Chinese efforts to downplay its severity. The letter closed with a threat to withdraw within 30 days unless the WHO shaped up to better serve "American interests." In the end, the Administration had patience only for 10 days after all.

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