DeepMind’s Demis Hassabis is setting up an ethics board inside Google to consider dangers of AI

The MIT Technology Review does a profile on DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis who sold his company to Google for $600+M earlier this year. The guy is clearly a genius and has degrees in both neuroscience and computer science and typical Google acquihire. But what caught my attention after looking at what DeepMind does and what Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking worry about:

Hassabis’s reluctance to talk about applications might be coyness, or it could be that his researchers are still in the early stages of understanding how to advance the company’s AI software. One strong indicator that Hassabis believes progress toward a powerful new form of AI will be swift is that he is setting up an ethics board inside Google to consider the possible downsides of advanced artificial intelligence. “It’s something that we or other people at Google need to be cognizant of. We’re still playing Atari games currently,” he says, laughing. “But we are on the first rungs of the ladder.”

That all these smart people are afraid of what AI can do to humanity is chilling. It is slightly reassuring that Google is thinking seriously about the implications.

A video of Hassabis explaining his work follows: Read more

Six reasons why Google’s autonomous car director thinks public sale is still five years away

Google_Car

Google’s self-driving cars may have notched up 700,000 accident-free miles without anyone needing to press the big red Stop button, but project director Chris Urmson’s personal deadline to have the cars on sale to the public is still five years away, reports the MIT’s Technology Review.

Most tech-heads know that the cars rely on inch-perfect modelling of the specific streets they will use, the cars unable to drive anywhere else, but the piece revealed that this is just one of the challenges ahead …  Read more

MIT working with Google’s Boston Dynamics to develop shapeshifting robots

Sqish-Bot

A team of eggheads at MIT are working with Boston Dynamics to develop next-generation shapeshifting robots built from simple materials like wax and foam. Not quite like Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat, these pliable contraptions possess the ability to squish into smalls spaces, while maintaining their durability. So don’t worry about these machines stealing your identity just yet. To change shape, these low-cost robots use embedded wiring to heat and contort specific parts of their waxy builds.

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Wearables expert Richard DeVaul jumps ship from Apple to Google

Richard DeVaul, a PhD. scientist from MIT with a focus on building wearable technologies, was snared from Apple this month by Google.  At Apple he was rumored to be working with SVP of Industrial Design, Jonny Ive in Apple’s secret labs building the next big thing.

Besides his having knowledge of the inter-workings of Apple, it is also interesting that DeVaul is a hardware person who has focused on building wearable products for the past decade.  Google has been a software company for all of its existence, but more and more it appears that it will enter the hardware business…but probably in smart accessories rather than phones.

He’ll likely join two former Danger hardware experts in a new Google lab called Google Hardware where his Job Description of “Rapid idea evaluation and prototyping for new projects at Google. ” seems to fit in with Joel Britt and Matt Hershenson are doing.

I wrote about DeVaul’s transition to Apple at Computerworld 18 months ago, excerpted below:

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