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AI expert slams Google for caving to the mob

She berated Google for failing to communicate its decision to pull the plug before axing the board.
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Joanna Bryson, a member of Google’s now-disbanded AI ethics board, has expressed dissatisfaction over Google’s decision to disband the program. The point of having a diverse range of opinions on the board was to ensure that AI projects remain fair and balanced for the future, and Bryson, an AI specialist with the University of Bath, UK, said the internet giant should have resolved the cause of discontentment with the board rather than end it completely.

“It isn’t called “Schadenfreude” if you were part of the lynch mob. It’s called “Joy of destruction.” It’s an antisocial behaviour scientists struggle to account for”, Bryson tweeted.

According to Bryson, she “thought there were enough smart people at Google that there must be some process for either communicating or improving decisions…but I was wrong.”

The trouble started when Google appointed Kay Coles James, president of Heritage Foundation, a conservative, to its Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC). Almost a thousand Google employees and the usual tech personalities protested Google’s choice to allow a conservative on the council.

According to the internet giant, it was evident that the group would not function effectively the way it was intended with all the backlashes. “So we’re ending the council and going back to the drawing board,” the company said in a statement, as we recently reported.

Google said managing the challenges that come with AI is a collaborative effort and they will come up with new ways to obtain external opinions on such issues – a task the disbanded ethics board was initially set up to achieve.

But Bryson tweeted that Google ought to have defended its choice of some members of the board rather than disbanding the group and berated Google for failing to communicate its decision to pull the plug before axing the board, and for its failure to improve on decisions that established the AI board.

Bryson said she would have expected the company to weigh the issues on the ground carefully and possibly applied “whatever their second favorite option was.” She added that friends warned her that Google would bail rather than go by what the majority of people wanted, and they did just that:

“I was waiting to see whether Google stuck to their guns on a very difficult and presumably careful decision, or fixed the decision / went with whatever their second favourite option was. People told me Google would actually just bail, but I found that incredible.”

It is apparent that Google did not anticipate the mob reaction to the inclusion of Coles James to the council.

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