Google CEO Sundar Pichai:  Artificial Intelligence More Important than Fire or Electricity!

Dear Commons Community,

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, was quoted as saying that artificial intelligence is going to have a bigger impact on the world than some of the most ubiquitous innovations in history.  As reported by CNBC:

“AI is one of the most important things humanity is working on. It is more profound than, I dunno, electricity or fire,” says Pichai, speaking at a town hall event in San Francisco.

A number of very notable tech leaders have made bold statements about the potential of artificial intelligence. Tesla boss Elon Musk says AI is more dangerous than North Korea. Famous physicist Stephen Hawking says AI could be the “worst event in the history of our civilization.” And Y Combinator President Sam Altman likens AI to nuclear fission.

Even in such company, Pichai’s comment seems remarkable. Interviewer and Recode executive editor Kara Swisher stopped Pichai when he made the comment. “Fire? Fire is pretty good,” she retorts.

Pichai sticks by his assertion. “Well, it kills people, too,” Pichai says of fire. “We have learned to harness fire for the benefits of humanity but we had to overcome its downsides too. So my point is, AI is really important, but we have to be concerned about it.”

Indeed, for many, so much about artificial intelligence is unknown and therefore scary. However, Pichai also points out that “it is important to help people understand that they use AI today. AI is just making computers more intelligent and being able to do a wide variety of tasks and we take it for granted whenever something happens and we adopt it,” he says.

“So for example, today, Google can translate across many many languages and people use it billions of times a day. That’s because of AI.

“Or if you … go to Google and search for images of sunset, or if you go to Google photos and search for images of people hugging, we can actually pull together and show pictures of people hugging.

“This is all because of AI. …

…And as a tech executive would, Pichai says AI has the potential to make our lives even better in the future.

“AI holds the potential for some of the biggest advances we are going to see. You know whenever I see the news of a young person dying of cancer, you realize AI is going to play a role in solving that in the future, so I think we owe it to make progress,” the Google CEO says.

That being said, it is still important to think about humanity’s future with artificial intelligence, Pichai says. “It is right to be concerned, absolutely, you have to worry about it otherwise you are not going to solve it.”

I agree with Pichai that AI will have a profound impact on humanity.  The answer to the question no one knows is:  When this is going to happen?


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