Interview with Yoshua Bengio, Pioneer of AI

People’s Concerns about GAFA and China

 TT              People are concerned about big companies such as Google or Apple, or a country like China because they have a huge amount of data so they can do what they want.

 YB             Yes, but they probably also want to be considered as positive, responsible agents in society, and so if we do the right communication, to explain the issues, and engage in social discussion about these things I’m optimistic that we can have those social norms be improved. And of course, it means changing how to do things.

 TT              I met Dan Klein, chief data officer from Valtech in Cambridge, UK. He is also concerned about China.  Because China has a huge amount of data which computer scientists can use in order to develop the AI, while UK and EU have the limited data access because of the Data Protection Act.  Also Chinese companies pay high salaries for computer engineers outside of China, so great European engineers are going to leave for China.

 YB             I don’t think our European engineers are going to China.

 TT              Oh really? Maybe American?  Oh, I don’t know.

 YB             Not much. No but they don’t need that. They have plenty of good scientists and engineers. The issue with China is that it’s difficult for many of us to have confidence that the current political system of China will behave responsibly, but it’s true of many countries that governments are not very responsible. If you consider, for example, climate change, the US has been behaving very badly.

 TT              Yes.

 YB             So even if it’s a democracy it doesn’t mean that governments will be doing the right things. So I think every country has an interest in being part of the global consensus for obvious economic reasons, but also, to feel good about themselves. So I think we should not pit countries against each other and peoples against each other.

 TT              Yes.  I totally agree with you.

 YB             It’s not going to help.

 TT              If you develop an algorithm in Canada, would it also work in Japan or should we adapt it to our society?

 YB             No the algorithms are very generic. It’s like math.  Addition is the same in Japan as in Canada.

 TT              Yes, but data itself has some cultural meanings…

 YB             No, but that’s data. That’s not the algorithm.

 TT              Okay. I see.

 YB             So the learning procedures are going to be the same, but the data will be different, and the systems that are trained using the learning procedures and the data, of course, will be different in different countries.

 TT              So once we have the algorithm, we can use it with our own data.

 YB             That’s right.

 TT              Then it will work very well.

 YB             It works better.

About Toshie Takahashi

Toshie Takahashi is Professor in the School of Culture, Media and Society, as well as the Institute for Al and Robotics,Waseda University, Tokyo. She was the former faculty Associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. She has held visiting appointments at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge as well as Columbia University. She conducts cross-cultural and trans-disciplinary research on the social impact of robots as well as the potential of AI for Social Good. 【早稲田大学文学学術院教授。元ハーバード大学バークマンクライン研究所ファカルティ・アソシエイト。現在、人工知能の社会的インパクトやロボットの利活用などについて、ハーバード大学やケンブリッジ大学と国際共同研究を行っている。東京オリンピック・パラリンピック競技大会組織委員会テクノロジー諮問委員会委員。】
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