HomeTech NewsGoogle critic Whittaker: "AI is a technology of the powerful"

Google critic Whittaker: “AI is a technology of the powerful”

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Meredith Whittaker, co-founder of the AI ​​Now Institute and one of google’s harshest critics, interviewed by MIT technology Review.

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Anyone who wants to criticize the negative consequences of the use of artificial intelligence “can no longer avoid the topic of power dynamics,” says Meredith Whittaker from the AI ​​Now Institute in an interview with MIT Technology Review. But it is not enough to talk about power in abstract terms. “We have to name the companies that develop and use systems, the names of those who use them and benefit from them,” she says.

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Meredith Whittaker

(Image: AI Now Institute)

Whittaker, she is considered one of Google’s harshest critics – especially when it comes to AI. She worked for the group from 2006 to 2019, and in 2017, with the express consent of Google, founded the research institute AI Now together with the AI ​​researcher Kate Crawford, which worked on the social implications of artificial intelligence for the first time. In 2018, however, there was a break with Google: Whittaker helped organize the Google Walkouts, protests against military research at Google and against sexism and racism in the workplace, and resigned in 2019. Since then, she has focused on her academic and consulting work in the context of the AI ​​Now Institute .

This text is from: MIT Technology Review 6/2022

What exactly does artificial intelligence have to do with power, domination and colonialism? We look into this question in the current issue. The new issue is available from August 18th. in stores and from 17.8. easy to order in the voonze shop. Highlights from the magazine:

“It needs to be made clear that these ‘accidents,’ like the Michigan algorithm that misclassified over 40,000 unemployment benefit claimants as fraudsters, are not tragic isolated incidents,” Whittaker said. “The system was supposed to monitor whether people who received a replacement benefit because they had become unemployed were not being cheated. The AI ​​had a bug and tens of thousands were wrongly classified as cheaters.” The Michigan State Supreme Court has now granted those affected the right to compensation.

However, the incident was not a coincidence, but the result of a “power system” in which those who are affected by the technology are not allowed to have a say in its development. “AI is a technology of the powerful, they won’t help us to change that,” adds Whittaker, who describes herself “as an optimist” despite everything, “but optimism is an invitation to act, not a promise. Far too many politicians are still looking away because they’re afraid they don’t know the technology well enough. The lobbyists of the tech companies take advantage of that. We have to address the systematic exploitation and make it clear that AI is a power technology.”

Read the full interview with Meredith Whittaker “AI is a technology of the powerful” in the browser or in the new issue of MIT Technology Review (can be ordered from the voonze shop and is available in well-stocked newsagents).


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