James Manica (Google): “Artificial intelligence will change the world like a computer or electricity.” | technology

James Manika (57 years old, Harare, Zimbabwe) says that artificial intelligence (AI) has been around us for decades, but people have not noticed it yet. He was already in the field long before he became Vice President of Search, Technology and Society at Google, a position he held for a year. In that time, artificial intelligence has catapulted itself from the apocalyptic scenes of science fiction movies to the top of world news. “25 years ago, when I got my PhD in robotics, nobody understood what we were talking about. People still didn’t realize it long before the arrival of Chat botThey were already benefiting from artificial intelligence, “he explained to EL PAÍS in Madrid, where last Thursday he participated in a Google event at the Lázaro Galdiano Museum.

Manika insists that this revolution has been brewing above all for the past 15 years, though she admits it was in recent months when, after the launch of ChatGPT, the AI ​​outage accelerated. Chat bot OpenAI Generative AI. Since last February, Google has also had its own app in this category, Bard, which still cannot be used in Spain. “It will arrive soon,” Manica assures. “There is a lot of work to be done because Spanish is such a complex, diverse and varied language. We want to do it well because it is a very important issue.”

ask. Is it possible that they are overestimating the importance of artificial intelligence?

Answer. no I do not think so. We value it because it is a profound change that will affect almost everything we do. Economics, productivity, how we perceive information and learn. For me, the question is how to get both sides of the coin: making sure it’s useful to society and, at the same time, being able to deal with the challenges that come our way.

s. Will the world change?

R was found. I think so. What I find very important about AI is that it will be like computers or electricity. It’s an essential technology: I can’t imagine an activity or part of society in which it wouldn’t be useful. In that sense, I think it will change the world. At the same time, I think it is so powerful and so beneficial that it will also lead to very big consequences, risks and challenges, that we have to deal with.

More than two-thirds of jobs will be different. It will not disappear, it will simply develop and change.

s. What do you mean when you talk about risk?

R was found. On the other hand, there are risks that occur when the technology itself does not work as we want it to, when it turns out to be inaccurate or wrong. Other types of risks are those related to privacy and information handling. Moreover, even when these two aspects work well, it is possible to misuse this technology. It can be used for criminal purposes, to mislead, or to create threats to national security. There is also a fourth complication related to side effects, such as the impact of AI on jobs, mental health, and other socioeconomic factors to watch out for.

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s. In fact, there are people who are already losing their jobs because of AI…

R was found. There are jobs where machines can perform some of the tasks people do now; And there are losses in it, that’s right. Job opportunities will also be created, due to increased productivity and the creation of new categories. But I think the biggest impact, and that’s what all the analysis is pointing to now, is that jobs are bound to change. Think of bank tellers, who in the 1970s spent 90% of their time counting money, while now they spend less than 10% of their time on the task. Our data indicates that more than two-thirds of jobs will be different. It will not disappear, it will simply develop and change.

s. Should we be afraid of artificial intelligence?

R was found. No, but we must be careful how we use it. Artificial intelligence isn’t a thing of the past few months, we’ve been living with it for years. If you look at its history, you will realize that as soon as any of its applications became useful, we stopped calling it AI; But we reserve the term for things that are to come or things that scare us. I’m not saying we shouldn’t worry. But we must also remember all the ways in which we actually use it and are very beneficial to us.

s. Jeffrey Hinton left Google precisely to warn of the dangers of this technology.

R was found. I know Jeff well. I think what I’ve been trying to do, and what many of us have tried to do, is highlight that we have to take a preventative approach. Because yes, the benefits are incredibly beneficial, but there are also concerns that you need to be aware of. I think he wanted to remind us of all the risks that come with it, especially as it gets more advanced. I think this approach is appropriate.

s. Why are there so many doomsday statements signed by the parents of AI?

R was found. I myself signed one of these letters, as I consider it necessary to ensure that due attention is paid to it. When we have powerful technology, we have to consider both its real benefits and risks. At Google, we want to be bold and responsible. I know these two things sound contradictory but they are both important.

s. Is regulating AI a way to take responsibility?

R was found. Yes, these technologies are too important to regulate. We’ve said it publicly for a long time. Any powerful, groundbreaking, complex technology you need, even if it’s as useful as this one. If it affects people’s lives and society, there must be some form of regulation.

s. There are those who ask to stop developing it until it is organized.

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R was found. We will temporarily stop the benefits of this technology to people. Do we really want to stop sending flood alerts to the millions of people who receive them today? Stop working on advances in medicine? i don’t think so. There needs to be a clear plan for what we’re going to do during that gap and everyone working on AI development needs to be coordinated. What I think is important is making sure we’re in dialogue with governments, to know what we want to do and how we want to do it.

s. Is there a sector where the application of artificial intelligence poses a risk?

R was found. I think not so much of specific sectors as of the use which is given to them. The technology applied in medicine differs from the same technology applied in the transportation sector. The risks are different. I agree that it is necessary to think about how to apply this technology in each case. For example, as much as I love what we’re doing with the Bard, I think it’s a terrible idea to ask him for legal advice. Now if you ask me whether I should use Bard to write an article and explore ideas, my answer is of course.

s. Is it okay to ask Him for help if we are sick?

R was found. I will not get a medical diagnosis from A Chat bot. Generally, if I want factual information, I’ll go to a Google search. If I wanted to know what happened in Madrid this morning, I wouldn’t use Bard for that either.

s. do you think that Chat bot Artificial intelligence (such as Bard or ChatGPT) can replace search engines?

R was found. I don’t know what other companies do, but I can tell you what we do. For us, Bard is different from Google Search [el clásico buscador de la empresa]. Yes, there are ways we bring AI and large language models into research, but they are two very different cases. We launched Bard as an experiment: we’re trying to understand why people use it, and what it’s for. And we are still learning. It is important to note that we have been using AI to improve search for much longer than people realize. Six years ago, when you tried to use the search engine, you probably had to type a fairly exact query for it to return something useful. Today you no longer have to. Writing something fairly valid is enough.

s. How do you think the scenario will be in 10 years?

R was found. I think it would be great. I think of all the things that can benefit society, for example being able to understand thousands of languages, and it excites me. For now, we set ourselves the goal of translating 2,000 languages ​​on Google, but in ten years I think we can reach the 7,000 languages ​​spoken in the world, even the ones that are disappearing. It will be unusual. But at the same time, I hope we’ve also made amazing progress in combating all of the risks that we’ve talked about.

Part of our fear of AI comes from our inability to accept that machines can also do creative things.

s. What needs to happen for AI to get out of our control?

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R was found. Somehow we succeed in developing systems that design themselves and are able to create their own goals. That would be a problem, but we’re light years away from that. This will be the science fiction version. The most likely and problematic situation will not have much to do with artificial intelligence plunging into chaos, but with the people themselves. The danger is that humans are putting these technologies to horrific uses. We know that the same system that can decode protein structures for drug development can also design toxins or viruses if they fall into the wrong hands. That’s what really worries me in the short term.

s. Where does the fear of artificial intelligence come from?

R was found. [Ríe] From Hollywood movies. I’m kidding, but I also think it’s true. I go back to what I said before, to the idea that when this technology starts to be useful, we stop calling it AI. We seem to reserve this label for things we see in movies or things we don’t yet understand or are about to happen. On the other hand, I think part of this fear can be traced back to a very human factor, a question humanity has always asked itself. What does it mean to be human when machines can do the things that have hitherto set us apart from any other living thing? Until now we thought we were the only ones who could make art, the only ones with creativity and empathy. I think part of this fear comes from the inability to accept that machines can also do creative things, which until now were considered to be limited to humans.

s. Can we say that what scares us is that machines can do something better than us?

R was found. We have to face this fear. We have to adjust our thinking and ask ourselves who we are and what we are good at. There was a time when we used to assume that only people who could do math in their heads were smart. If you can’t read the things you learned in a textbook on a test from your memory, you probably aren’t very smart. We used to think about all this, but now we’ve moved on, and I think the same thing will happen with AI. It may happen faster than we humans are prepared to take in. But I think humanity has always adapted and will continue to do so.

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