BI Chinese Station Report on June 28
Google’s chief artificial intelligence (AI) scientist Fei-Fei Li has been the company’s “rock star” since joining the company in November 2016. However, her future in Google has become increasingly uncertain.
Google Chief AI scientist Dr. Fei Fei Li
Li Feifei is an associate professor at Stanford University and head of the school's AI laboratory. According to online information, Li Feifei will return to school sometime later this year. This time has started from now.
Before last month, Li Feifei seemed to be the one that Google had tried hard to retain. Her personal experience had made her a media star in a way. When Li Feifei immigrated to the United States from the age of 16 and did not understand any English, he eventually became a Google executive and received a doctorate. In 2016, Li Feifei was awarded the title of “Great Immigrant” by the Carnegie Group.
However, afterwards, Google agreed to provide AI technical support to the military to help analyze drone surveillance videos. It was strongly objected to by the staff and Li Feifei himself had been involved in internal disputes for several months.
The controversy is still being staged. Google’s big acquisition in the highly competitive AI space seems to be preparing to continue. A Google spokesperson confirmed that Dr. Feifei’s plans for Google and Stanford did not change, but declined to provide further details.
It is not yet clear whether Dr. Feifei Li directly participated in the bidding for the military contract. It is not clear whether she personally participated in this process. But for Google, who has long believed in "no bad" rumors, she has paid a huge price for this controversial transaction.
After news of cooperation with the military came out of Google, more than 4,000 employees signed a petition asking management to end cooperation. The 12 employees subsequently resigned in protest. Google finally succumbed to many pressures and promised never to develop AI technology for weapons.
U.S. Military Reconnaissance UAV
The American mainstream online media BI interviewed current and former Google employees. They said that Dr. Feifei Li was criticized for his comments made in e-mail exchanges with other Google executives in September last year. The e-mails were leaked to the New York Times and The Intercept last month. This is very embarrassing for Google and Li Feifei.
These e-mails revealed a discussion between Li Feifei and other managers who were concerned about how to release to the public the news that Google and the U.S. Department of Defense had signed the first big order. According to the “New York Times” report, Li Feifei wrote in an e-mail: “No matter what, don’t mention or suggest AI. Weaponed AI may be one of the most sensitive topics in the AI field. This is the best target for those who try to destroy Google’s media.
"The Intercept" disclosed that in another news, Li Feifei wrote: "If the media began to report that Google is secretly developing AI weapons, or manufacturing AI weapons for the defense industry, I do not know what will happen. Google Cloud has always helped build our 2017 theme, democratizing AI, while Diane Greene (head of Google Cloud) and I have been talking about corporate human AI. I will be very careful to protect these very positive images. ”
Google CEO Sandor · Sundar Pichai interviewed by reporter at I/O developer conference in 2018
For many Googlers, these comments made the role of Li Feifei in cooperation with the US Department of Defense AI appear complicated. What's worse is that these comments left them with the impression that this is inconsistent with the public image of Li Feifei's "ethical use of AI" advocated by Li Feifei.
Even before he came to Google, Li Feifei was a famous AI supporter and ethicist. She often mentioned the importance of developing "as good as possible" and "people-oriented AI", and that AI should benefit everyone and "serve not only a small number of privileged people". She warned that the enthusiasm for AI made it impossible for us to address its potential impact on society.
However, Li Feifei’s critics said that when discussing a military contract that should at least ring alarm bells, she did not seem to be very concerned about “being good” or ethical issues. Therefore, they believe that the credibility and effectiveness of Li Feifei as an AI preacher have been compromised.
To be sure, Li Feifei is not the only Google executive who seems more willing to cooperate with the US Department of Defense. She is certainly not the ultimate decision maker of the contract. At several plenary meetings, Diane Greene, who oversaw Google’s contract with the Department of Defense, defended their decision, claiming that Google’s contribution was entirely for non-aggressive purposes.
If Li Feifei returns to Stanford University and continues to work part-time on Google, he may receive the title of "Advisor". Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, once said that AI is critical to the company’s future and that Li Feifei is considered one of the top AI experts in the world.
Pichchai stated earlier this year that "The AI is one of the most important things human beings are studying. It may be more meaningful than electricity or fire." ”
With Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and other tech giants expanding their AI teams, Google is certainly not willing to lose Li Feifei. Now that Google has given up its cooperation with the military in arms (although these contracts may generate billions of dollars in revenue), Google hopes to gain guidance on all intellectual and ethical aspects of AI. (Compilation / Gold Deer)