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Google CEO Sundar Pichai compares impact of AI to electricity and fire

Google CEO Sundar Pichai compares impact of AI to electricity and fire

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Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, speaking at a taped television event hosted by MSNBC and The Verge’s sister site Recode, said artificial intelligence is one of the most profound things that humanity is working on right now and compared it to basic utilities in terms of its importance.

Speaking to Recode’s Kara Swisher and MSNBC’s Ari Melber, Pichai said AI is “one of the most important things that humanity is working on. It’s more profound than, I don’t know, electricity or fire,” adding that people learned to harness fire for the benefits of humanity, but also needed to overcome its downsides, too. Pichai also said that AI could be used to help solve climate change issues, or to cure cancer.

The remarks from the chief executive of Google, which is largely perceived as one of the world leaders in the development of artificial intelligence, came after Swisher asked repeatedly about AI’s impact on jobs and observed that Silicon Valley tends to have a “shiny happy future” outlook about disruptive technologies.

“I get that shiny happy future, but, jobs,” Swisher said. “Look at a job like a radiologist. You might not need lawyers, which some people might celebrate... you might not need accountants.” Pichai acknowledged that people have a right to be concerned, but still need to embrace technological advances. “History shows that countries that pull back don’t do well with change. So you have to embrace the change,” he responded.

The full interview with Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki will air next Friday, January 26, at 10PM ET, on MSNBC.