A number of very notable tech leaders have made bold statements about the potential of artificial intelligence. Tesla boss Elon Musks 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. …[T]here are early stages of AI here and we use it today.”