Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

LONDON – Google’s chief executive on Monday called for a balanced approach to the regulation of artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also “negative consequences”.

Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider limiting the use of artificial intelligence.

“There is no doubt in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. The question is how best to approach this, ”Pichai said, according to a transcript of his speech at a Brussels-based think tank.

He noted that governments have an important role to play and that, as the European Union and the United States begin to develop their own approaches to regulation, “international alignment” of any possible rule will be essential. He did not make any specific proposals.

Pichai spoke on the same day he was due to meet with the powerful EU competition regulator, Margrethe Vestager. She is also due to meet with Microsoft President Brad Smith separately on Monday.

In previous years, Vestager has fined the Silicon Valley giant several billion dollars for allegedly abusing its dominant market position to stifle competition. After being reappointed for a second term last fall with extended powers over digital policies, Vestager has now set his sights on artificial intelligence and is developing rules on its ethical use.

Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to avoid a widespread EU crackdown on the technology. Vestager and the EU have been among the most aggressive regulators of big tech companies, an approach that US officials have echoed with inquiries into the dominance of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

“Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities,” he said, adding that it could incorporate existing standards such as the European General Data Protection Regulation rather than to start from scratch.

While this promises big benefits, he raised concerns about the potential drawbacks of artificial intelligence, citing as an example its role in facial recognition technology, which can be used to find missing persons as well as for “Infamous reasons” that he did not specify.

In 2018, Google pledged not to use AI in weapons-related, surveillance-related applications that violate international standards or that operate in ways that violate human rights.

Pichai was also due to meet Monday with Frans Timmermans, the European Commissioner in charge of the European Green Deal, the bloc’s plan to fight climate change by making the continent carbon neutral by 2050, in particular thanks to technology. He is next due to travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week.


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Kelvin Chan, The Associated Press

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