Sundar Pichai warns of threats to internet freedom

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The free and open internet is under attack in countries around the world, Google boss Sundar Pichai has warned.

According to Pichai, over the next quarter of a century, two other developments will further revolutionise our world: artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Amid the rustling leaves and sunshine of the vast, empty campus that is Google’s HQ in Silicon Valley, Pichai stressed how consequential AI was going to be. Artificial intelligence is, at base, the attempt to replicate human intelligence in machines. Various AI systems are already better at solving particular kinds of problems than humans. For an eloquent exposition of the potential harms from AI, try this essay by Henry Kissinger.

Ordinary computing is based on states of matter that are binary: 0 or 1. Nothing in-between. These positions are called bits. But at the quantum, or sub-atomic level, matter behaves differently: it can be 0 or 1 at the same time – or on a spectrum between the two. Quantum computers are built on qubits, which factor in the probability of matter being in one of various different states. This is mind-boggling stuff, but it could change the world.

Pichai is now product managing the infinitely greater challenges of AI and quantum computing. He is doing so as Google faces a daily barrage of scrutiny and criticism on several fronts – to name but three: tax, privacy, and alleged monopoly status. Pichai rose through the ranks of Google by being the most effective, popular and respected product manager in the company’s history.

Neither Chrome, the browser, nor Android, the mobile operating system, were his idea. But Pichai was the product manager who led them, under the watchful eyes of Google’s founders, to global domination.

In a sense, Pichai is now product managing the infinitely greater challenges of AI and quantum computing. He is doing so as Google faces a daily barrage of scrutiny and criticism on several fronts – to name but three: tax, privacy, and alleged monopoly status.