Interview with Google-CEO : Do we have to be afraid of Google, Mr. Pichai?

Our core product, the search engine which we built 20 years ago, works on principles: We are focused on providing accurate and relevant high-quality information. We do it globally. When we build products we don’t infuse our personal biases. We have goals and we are validating the results and we test it. In case of search, we use search raters, we have guidelines and we test it. That is how we make sure that we work as intended.

Do you only rely on this structure or is it also necessary to make sure that your employees are as diverse as society is?

All of these aspects matter over time. But in our case, the users are actually shaping our products, they are the ones that give us feedback and they are the ones who rate the searches. Our products are reflecting that. We define high quality by what the users are telling us. It almost doesn’t matter who develops the system: It is designed to reflect the values of society not the values of Google employees.

That doesn’t stop biases to infiltrate AI. Let’s take as an example a job ad for a software-engineer that an AI-system might show to more men than women because that’s what the system learned from the data from the internet. That might be accurate but it is still controversial.

Advertisement is different from organic search. The way we approach such questions is that we are transparent about our policies. This way society can look at what we're doing and give us feedback. This is why there are many areas in which we don’t allow for sensitive information to be used to target advertising. This is the case for political ads for example.  

Your employees have been very outspoken. 20 000 of them took part in a walkout last November to protest management decisions they saw as sexist. What have you done to approach the problem?

At Google we've always given our employees a voice for as long as I've been there. We've always welcomed employees input. Our employees are our most valuable resource and we view it as a strength. Anytime they have feedback it's an important input to us and we take it very seriously. There are a lot of factors we balance but we cherish the input.

Is Google a sexist company?

We work very hard to make sure we have  a culture which is inclusive for everyone. We care about it, we hold ourselves to a very high degree of accountability. If we ever fail we feel it and we acknowledge it. As a company I think we have led the industry on many of the practices we do in terms of making sure that our company is a welcoming place for everyone and I know we are committed to doing it that way.

You yourself have a very interesting background. You grew up in India in a very small apartment. What was it like?

I grew up in a middle class family in India and I had a happy childhood. But for sure it was very different from how I live today. The setting was much simpler, I would say.

Do you miss the simplicity of those days?

Oh yes, for sure. I never felt a lack of anything. I had lots of friends and family in my life, I had the relationships that mattered. The concept was much simpler. The world has become more complex, and I am not sure that we always want this complexity but it is a part of the modern world. I miss the simplicity at times. But this is probably true for most people.

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