The annual Google founders’ letters provide insight into the minds that lead one of the world’s largest tech firms. Google co-founder and current Alphabet president Sergey Brin wrote this year’s letter. Brin briefly mentioned Etherum and the cryptocurrency boom, but a highlight of the letter was the rise of artificial intelligence, which he called the “most significant development in computing in my lifetime.”
Brin noted that when Google was first founded, A.I. and neural networks were largely viewed as little more than relics in the history of computer science. Today Google and other companies use A.I. for everything from photo analysis to translation services.
“Every month, there are stunning new applications and transformative new techniques,” Brin wrote. “In this sense, we are truly in a technology renaissance.”
The growth of A.I. is not without its problems. Brin mentioned that tech companies have a responsibility to ensure A.I. is used in an ethical manner. He also cautioned readers to be mindful of some of the downsides of advanced A.I. and automation, such as job losses across various industries and the protection of privacy.
Brin’s letter focused heavily on Alphabet’s efforts to ensure that A.I. is used in a manner that is safe and ethical. To this end, Brin highlighted several current safety initiatives that Alphabet is involved in.
“There is serious thought and research going into all of these issues,” the letter reads. “Most notably, safety spans a wide range of concerns from the fears of sci-fi style sentience to the more near-term questions such as validating the performance of self-driving cars.”
An overarching theme from Brin’s letter is responsibility. He acknowledges that Google and other tech companies have a well-earned reputation to take an optimistic — some might argue naive — view regarding the promises of technology. He goes onto admit that technology has created newfound problems for society, but believes that, overall, progress is a force for good.
“While I am optimistic about the potential to bring technology to bear on the greatest problems in the world, we are on a path that we must tread with deep responsibility, care, and humility,” the letter concludes. “That is Alphabet’s goal.”