Sundar Pichai says the future of Google is AI. But can he fix the algorithm?

I was asking in the context of the aftermath of the 2016 election and the misinformation that companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google were found to have spread.

“I view it as a big responsibility to get it right,” he says. “I think we’ll be able to do these things better over time. But I think the answer to your question, the short answer and the only answer, is we feel huge responsibility.”

But it’s worth questioning whether Google’s systems are making the rightdecisions, even as they make some decisions much easier.

People are already skittish about how much Google knows about them, and they are unclear on how to manage their privacy settings. Pichai thinks that’s another one of those problems that AI could fix, “heuristically.”

“Down the line, the system can be much more sophisticated about understanding what is sensitive for users, because it understands context better,” Pichai says. “[It should be] treating health-related information very differently from looking for restaurants to eat with friends.” Instead of asking users to sift through a “giant list of checkboxes,” a user interface driven by AI could make it easier to manage.

Of course, what’s good for users versus what’s good for Google versus what’s good for the other business that rely on Google’s data is a tricky question. And it’s one that AI alone can’t solve. Google is responsible for those choices, whether they’re made by people or robots.

The amount of scrutiny companies like Facebook and Google — and Google’s YouTube division — face over presenting inaccurate or outright manipulative information is growing every day, and for good reason.

Pichai thinks that Google’s basic approach for search can also be used for surfacing good, trustworthy content in the feed. “We can still use the same core principles we use in ranking around authoritativeness, trust, reputation.

What he’s less sure about, however, is what to do beyond the realm of factual information — with genuine opinion: “I think the issue we all grapple with is how do you deal with the areas where people don’t agree or the subject areas get tougher?”

When it comes to presenting opinions on its feed, Pichai wonders if Google could “bring a better perspective, rather than just ranking alone. … Those are early areas of exploration for us, but I think we could do better there.”

Source: The Verge



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