Google AI team raises concerns about China in meeting with lawmakers

Google wants new artificial intelligence rules and told House lawmakers in a closed-door meeting it was concerned about its research becoming vulnerable to China.

China’s theft and usage of U.S. data and research breakthroughs have sparked federal scrutiny and prompted policymakers to form new strategies to better protect American innovation.

Google DeepMind, the Big Tech company’s AI research group, is rethinking its approach to how it publishes and shares its work amid concerns about China, according to a source close to the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

A handful of lawmakers met privately with Google DeepMind officials in their U.K. headquarters on Friday as part of a trip organized by the House committee.

The Big Tech company’s AI unit appeared more focused on research security concerns than their colleagues in academia, according to the source close to the committee.

Google’s message to the lawmakers was that it has already started to make changes to how it shares research and it wants the government to enact standards for other researchers to follow too. The changes involved going from an open source-minded approach to making the research more closely held, as China may be able to leverage the research for malign or military purposes.  

“It doesn’t really matter if it’s just one company that’s doing this, even though we’re going to do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Google representatives told lawmakers, according to the source. “You should be thinking about how to work through this problem with other companies because there is a collective action problem with it.”

The Biden administration is formulating a new AI strategy and Congress is crafting new AI rules.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released an updated national AI research and development strategic plan on Tuesday, which emphasized a desire to spend taxpayer money on AI.

The office also published a request for information that said it is crafting a “national AI strategy” that will take a “whole-of-society” approach to addressing artificial intelligence.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is undertaking a process to ensure a cohesive and comprehensive approach to AI-related risks and opportunities,” the office’s request said.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer has started a process to write new AI rules in the Senate and separately directed Democratic lawmakers to get to work on a “China Competition Bill 2.0” to help stop research theft from America.

Google declined questions about its meeting with House lawmakers and concerns on China and referred The Washington Times to a white paper it published Friday detailing its policy agenda for artificial intelligence.

“AI is too important not to regulate, and too important not to regulate well,” wrote Kent Walker, Google president of global affairs, in the paper.

Google DeepMind representatives told House lawmakers in the U.K. meeting that its people are what ultimately drives its AI advantage.

When lawmakers pressed Google on what stops the people from leaving and taking their talent to China, the Big Tech company representatives said, “Candidly, nothing.”

Google said governments and the private sector need to collaborate to keep the West an attractive place to work, according to the source.

Source: WT