The Microsoft-Google AI War

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"The Microsoft-Google AI War." On Point WBUR, NPR-Boston. 6 June 2023. 47.04 minutes. As of June 2023 available here.[1]

Audio file.

Host: Meghna Chakravarti


Dina Bass, tech and AI reporter for Bloomberg News.
Will Knight, senior writer for WIRED, covering artificial intelligence.
Sarah Myers West, managing director of the AI Now Institute, which studies the social implications of artificial intelligence.

Includes transcript (again, as of 6 June 2023).


MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: Here comes another open letter from the world of AI developers warning about the AI they're developing. Though this one is less of a statement and more a single sentence.

"Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war."

CHAKRABARTI: The statement is hosted by the Center for AI Safety and signed by politicians and scientists, including researchers at the forefront of AI technology. So first of all, when technologists are literally repeatedly begging for regulation, we, the public and our political representatives should listen to them and should do something about it because they're saying they cannot self-regulate.

And when it comes to civilization changing technology, tech folks probably shouldn't be relied on to self-regulate. Because it's the citizens, the civilization, i.e. the rest of humanity, who should have a say in how that very civilization should be changed. Or at least I think so.

The tech world is also saying it will not self-regulate. Because there's more than a little talking out of both sides of their mouths going on, isn't there? On the one hand, Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis and Microsoft's chief scientific officer, Eric Horvitz, are among the warning letters signatories. On the other hand.

  • SATYA NADELLA: The age of AI is upon us and Microsoft's powering it.

CHAKRABARTI: That is Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announcing earlier this year that even as his company is warning about the dangers of unregulated AI, his company is also pushing new AI technologies into almost every aspect of Microsoft's massive product reach.


Note for current, real-world issues with AI and learning protocols that learn current prejudices and can apply them in terms of, e.g., facial-recognition in surveillance — itself problematic — loan applications, school admissions, etc. Also, if one of the things SF typically does is literalize figures of speech (and it is), then we should expect more near-future cyberpunk(ish) fiction with war or the threat of conflict in cyberspace, various legislatures — and on literal battlefields — between giant American-based zaibatsu such as Google and Microsoft. So cf. as well as Neuromancer and its cyberpunk progeny such works as ROLLERBALL (1975) and Pohl and Kornbluth's The Space Merchants, with their background of corporate wars, and Frederik Pohl's idea of "cool war" for nonconventional conflicts between what have long been called nation-states.

Some serious people now assert the old observation that what gives humanity dominance of many things on Earth is our intelligence and worry about what may happen when AGI — Artificial General Intelligence — becomes more intelligent than the organic variety: ours. In that case we may get relevance for another thing SF often does: tell a fable or allegory — or pronounce a prophecy in the old sense of the term — and works like COLOSSUS, "With Folded Hands" and THE TERMINATOR series et al. become fables of a quiet triumph of machines over humans. Perhaps most plausible: the final human/machine cybernetic interface and relationship in Pohl's Man Plus.

RDE, finishing, 6Jun23