- Google scientist Fei-Fei Li used Elon Musk‘s doomsday prophecy about AI to warn her company against promoting its controversial work on a military contract.
- “You probably heard Elon Musk and his comment about AI causing WW3,” she said in an email seen by The Intercept, adding that the defence contract was “red meat” for critics.
- The Pentagon contract, known as Project Maven, has sparked uproar internally at Google.
A senior Google scientist reportedly turned to Elon Musk’s doomsday prophecy about AI to warn her company against promoting its controversial work on a military artificial-intelligence contract.
The New York Times reported this week that Fei-Fei Li, the chief scientist for AI at Google Cloud, is a vocal internal critic of Google’s work on the US Department of Defence’s Project Maven.
The reported $US9 million contract, which will see Google help the Pentagon use artificial intelligence to interpret video images that could improve drone strikes, has sparked uproar internally. Staff have petitioned against it, resigned in protest, flooded message boards, and confronted senior management in fractious meetings.
The Times obtained an email from Li, warning Google colleagues that publicising its work on Maven would be “red meat” for critics. Now, The Intercept has published a further extract from the same message, in which she refers to Tesla CEO Musk’s critical views of AI.
“You probably heard Elon Musk and his comment about AI causing WW3,” she wrote last September, according to the email seen by The Intercept. “I don’t know what would happen if the media starts picking up a theme that Google is secretly building AI weapons or AI technologies to enable weapons for the Defence industry.”
In the end, Google did not promote its work on Maven, but The Intercept said the Google team agreed that the firm should work to agree a “narrative” as quickly as possible. The company declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Business Insider.
Li is a prominent advocate for “human-centered AI” that helps people in “benevolent” ways. “It is deeply against my principles to work on any project that I think is to weaponize AI,” she told The Times.
Her comments about Musk surfaced just days after Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, said the Tesla CEO is “exactly wrong” about AI.
Last month, Musk imagined a nightmare scenario in which the technology morphs into a tyrannical regime, arguing AI could create “an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.” But Schmidt said Musk doesn’t understand the benefits of the technology.
“The fact of the matter is that artificial intelligence and machine learning are so fundamentally good for humanity,” Schmidt said at VivaTech in France last week. “It makes every citizen smarter, from the best educated to the least. It allows you to live longer, with less pain, less disease. It allows you to make economic systems and social systems be more fluid.”
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