President Donald Trump and Google CEO Sundar Pichai had a surprise meeting at the White House on Wednesday, where they discussed recent concerns over whether Google’s AI work may be indirectly benefiting the Chinese military.
The meeting did not appear on Trump’s daily schedule, however judging by his tweets, it seemed to be a success.
“Just met with Sundar Pichai, President of Google, who is obviously doing quite well. He stated strongly that he is totally committed to the U.S. military, not the Chinese Military…” Trump tweeted.
In a follow-up tweet, Trump said they also “discussed political fairness and various things that Google can do for our Country. Meeting ended very well!”
Pichai was in Washington D.C. for a meeting with General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to Bloomberg, where he planned to address Dunford’s recent comments that Google’s AI work in China “indirectly benefits the military.”
Google’s work on military projects became a point of contention last year after a Pentagon contract for artificial intelligence work on a drone program called Project Maven came under scrutiny. The contract prompted backlash and protests from Google employees, who cited legal and ethical concerns of working on a project that could be used to kill.
Last June, Google said it would not renew the contract in 2019. The company made a commitment that its AI would not be used with weapons, however it stopped short of saying it would never work with the U.S. military.
Google has also come under scrutiny over a report that it is working on Project Dragonfly, a censored version of its search engine that would allow Google to re-enter the Chinese market. The tech giant pulled most of its products from China in 2010, but has continued to work on AI and mobile computing initiatives. Last November, Google employees sent Pichai a letter urging him to drop the project, which could serve as a portal of surveillance for the Chinese government.
“Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be,” they wrote.
It’s been a big month for Trump and meetings with technology executives.
The president got plenty of attention earlier this month after he called Apple CEO Tim Cook “Tim Apple” during a meeting to discuss AI and the future workforce. Trump later offered various explanations, including that he was trying to shorten the CEO’s name to save time. However, that response was questioned by people who pointed out that Cook has one syllable, and Apple has two.
There was no word on whether a nickname was bestowed on Pichai, although Sundar Search has a nice ring to it.