Google said on Thursday it was dissolving a council it had formed a week earlier to consider ethical issues around artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.
The council, launched on March 26, was meant to provide recommendations for Google and other companies and researchers working in areas such as facial recognition software, a form of automation that has prompted concerns about racial bias and other limitations.
The eight-member Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) included technology experts and digital ethicists. "This group will consider some of Google's most complex challenges that arise under our AI Principles, like facial recognition and fairness in machine learning, providing diverse perspectives to inform our work," Google had wrote in a blog post announcing the ATEAC.
However, the council had run into controversy over two of its members.Within a week, one member of the council declined the invitation and another became the target of a pointed petition from Google staff as well as criticism from outside advocates. Hundreds of employees signed a petition circulating last week to remove Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, citing concerns about her positions on gay and transgender people.
“It’s become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can’t function as we wanted,” Google said Thursday in a statement. “So we’re ending the council and going back to the drawing board. We’ll continue to be responsible in our work on the important issues that AI raises, and will find different ways of getting outside opinions on these topics.”