“If you don’t know about Google, you don’t know how to internet.” No one would say that back in 1998 when the search giant was first “on the map.” However, this little garage project turned into the closest thing we have to Umbrella Corporation in real life. It’s taken on several bold projects, such as implementing a fiber infrastructure that keeps gobbling up cities, creating crazy gadgets, and even researching and implementing rudimentary artificial intelligence (AI) that will handle almost every plane of existence on the internet. How did such a company become such a tedious tinkerer? Is Google planning to take AI into scary heights, or is it just going to keep making our lives more convenient? That’s the question I plan to explore right now.
A Little Background
Google’s a company that seems to be making everything convenient for its users, giving away most of its services for free in exchange for a few minimally annoying ads. That sounds nice. So, what does this have to do with its pursuits in AI?
A lot, actually. For example, much of what the company implements in terms of AI comes in the form of speech recognition and other machine learning features. A lot of its acquisitions are young talented companies that specialize in this field. They’re always looking for new blood, something that makes it a very forward-looking company (despite Apple having a trophy with that title from its fan base, whether you like it or not).
The thing is that its research in AI extends to much, much more than just speech recognition and a few fancy features on Android. This link provides a list of AI research topics in Google’s labs.
Are We Really in The AI Era?
I personally like the Mass Effect terminology “virtual intelligence” for what we are now calling AI. In Mass Effect (a video game, for those of you with lives), a “virtual intelligence” (VI) is something that simulates intelligence, but is technically non-sentient. It is unaware of its own existence. However, in the real world, we use the term AI to encompass anything that a machine can do autonomously without human direction, but which emulates human thinking, such as recognizing a phrase you say or checking your pronunciation when learning a new language in DuoLingo.
But what if Google plans to make something that is self-aware? It’s been getting into robotics recently. Google’s certainly able, perhaps one day, to make a robot that would prefer to stay on rather than turn off, or try to preserve itself by all means necessary.
How Can We Be Sure That Google Doesn’t Decide To Become Dr. Evil?
There really isn’t anything stopping Google from developing AI technology that can be used in people’s disfavor, but this isn’t exactly the way the company operates. Sure, it’s a company that’s interested in munching profit and market share away from other firms. However, the only way it can do that is by providing an adequate service that its consumers will enjoy and love.
When it comes down to the numbers, hurting people is bad for business, especially when developing technology that’s meant to be a convenience. Still, there are a few reasons to be worried. What if Google’s projects one day get out of hand and start to go haywire? In what way may we act to enforce responsible robotics? And, most importantly, do sentient machines deserve the same rights we enjoy? Comment below with your opinions!