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Google’s AI Chief Is ‘Definitely Not Worried About the AI Apocalypse’

September 20, 2017, 4:26 PM UTC

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the only tech bigwig who isn’t sweating the possibility of Skynet becoming self-aware.

Zuckerberg, who spent the summer sparring with Tesla’s Elon Musk over the risks of ever-advancing artificial intelligence in our technology, got some support from Google’s head of search and AI, John Giannandrea, who spoke recently about what he called the “huge amount of unwarranted hype around AI right now.” Speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Giannandrea echoed some of the Facebook co-founder’s recent statements dismissing doomsday scenarios in which AI-empowered machines pose an inherent existential threat to their human creators.

“This leap into, ‘Somebody is going to produce a superhuman intelligence, and then there’s going to be all these ethical issues’ is unwarranted and borderline irresponsible,” Giannandrea said at the conference. Google’s AI chief added: “I’m definitely not worried about the AI apocalypse.”

Giannandrea went on to explain the importance of machine learning and artificial intelligence in revolutionizing the technology industry. Google uses AI to power features like Google Translate, the online tool that can instantly translate both spoken words and typed text, as well as products that help users search for new jobs online and provide you with ready-made replies to messages in Google’s Gmail, among countless other applications.

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Zuckerberg’s Facebook, meanwhile, uses AI to power its own language translation tools and the company recently announced plans to open an artificial intelligence lab in Montreal—its fourth such outpost—as Facebook continues to show increased interest in AI and deep learning.

Tesla’s Musk, however, has been a vocal skeptic when it comes to AI, with the tech leader going so far as to challenge Zuckerberg on the issue over the summer. Musk said the Facebook CEO’s “understanding of the subject is limited” while warning of the need to regulate AI. Those comments touched off something of a passive-aggressive debate between the two Silicon Valley giants, with Zuckerberg calling them “pretty irresponsible” and later referring to “people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios” while continuing to express his optimism that AI can only improve the ways that humans make use of technology.

For his part, Google’s Giannandrea rejects the “hype” from those questioning the safety of AI, with the Google AI chief even having compared the current state of artificial intelligence systems to a preschooler. “They’re not nearly as general purpose as a 4-year-old child,” he said.