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The head of Google’s Brain team is more worried about the lack of diversity in artificial intelligence than an AI apocalypse

Lack of diversity is more than a public relations issue, people.

 Not an AI robot — or is she!?!
Not an AI robot — or is she!?!
Adam Berry / Getty Images

As some would have it, robots are poised to take over the world in about 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

But one machine-learning expert — who is, after all, in a position to know — thinks that’s not the biggest issue facing artificial intelligence. In fact, it’s not an issue at all.

“I am personally not worried about an AI apocalypse, as I consider that a completely made-up fear,” Jeff Dean, a senior fellow at Google, wrote during a Reddit AMA on Aug. 11. “I am concerned about the lack of diversity in the AI research community and in computer science more generally.” (Emphasis his.)

Ding, ding, ding. The issue that the tech industry is trying to maneuver their way around, for better or worse, is the same issue that can stunt the progress of “humanistic thinking” in the development of artificial intelligence, according to Dean.

For the optimists in the audience, Google Brain wants to improve lives, Dean wrote. And how can you improve lives without people with diverse perspectives and backgrounds helping to build and develop the technology you hope will impact positive change? (Answer: You can’t.)

“One of the things I really like about our Brain Residency program is that the residents bring a wide range of backgrounds, areas of expertise (e.g. we have physicists, mathematicians, biologists, neuroscientists, electrical engineers, as well as computer scientists), and other kinds of diversity to our research efforts,” Dean wrote.

“In my experience, whenever you bring people together with different kinds of expertise, different perspectives, etc., you end up achieving things that none of you could do individually, because no one person has the entire skills and perspective necessary.”

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