Two weeks ago, Google established an external panel of experts to review thorny ethical issues related to artificial intelligence. It quickly imploded. After a staff revolt over the panel's members, the company disbanded the panel on Thursday afternoon. Its members never even got the chance to meet.
The episode illustrates the difficulty Google is having as it grapples with the societal implications of the powerful technology shaping its future. It’s hard to overstate how important AI is to the company. “It’s more profound than, I don’t know, electricity or fire,” said Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive officer, last year. But Google has been at the center of a widening public debate over how automated systems might disadvantage vulnerable groups or lead to large-scale job losses, and whether AI should be incorporated into weaponry.