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That week-old Google AI ethics council? Yeah, already getting shelved

"We’re ending the council and going back to the drawing board,” a Google representative said.

Published onApril 5, 2019

A Google logo.

On March 26, 2019, Google officially unveiled the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC). The council’s purpose? To monitor the ethical ramifications of new technologies — especially those revolving around artificial intelligence — and inform Google and other companies of any concerns.

Today, April 5, 2019, Google dissolved the ATEAC (via Reuters).

Ten days might seem like a strangely short time for a council of this type to last, but the ATEAC was mired in controversy almost from minute one.

The most high-profile problem with the ATEAC was council member Kay James Cole, who heads the Heritage Foundation. A group called Googlers Against Transphobia accuses the Heritage Foundation as being “anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-immigrant,” and started a petition for Cole’s removal from the ATEAC on those grounds.

Google's week-old AI ethics group is already a hot mess
A poster promoting Google AI showing some text and a circuit board.

Another council member, Dyan Gibbens, works for Trumbull Unmanned, a drone tech company that has previously worked with the U.S. military. Googlers and members of the public thought it inappropriate for a man like Gibbens to be a part of the ATEAC due to potential conflicts of interest.

Meanwhile, Alessandro Acquist — the first person listed on Google’s announcement post welcoming the team — had already quit. Acquisti left the project only four days after Google announced it, stating “I don’t believe this is the right forum for me to engage in this important work.”

Now, today, Google had this to say in an emailed statement to Reuters: “It’s become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can’t function as we wanted. So we’re ending the council and going back to the drawing board.”

Google didn’t give any indication as to how long it would take to develop a new ethics council nor who the company would ask to take part in the new organization,

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