Tag: Sundar Pichai

The Larry Page link to Google is broken

Saturday, 15 September, 2018

These are the best of times and the worst of times for the world’s predominant search engine. The best of times because the Alphabet money well continues to gush; the worst of times because the Google’s public image has been severely tarnished and its ethics have been questioned as never before. For example, this week saw the publication of that Breitbart video showing top executives gathering for a public grief session following the defeat of their US presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. Cultish and cringeworthy, this exercise in liberal groupthink should settle any remaining doubts about the bias that’s built into Google’s mindset.

That mindset also raises very disturbing questions about what Google is up to in China, where it’s said to be tinkering with a search engine that would comply with the Chinese authorities’ rigid censorship demands. Don’t be evil, and all that. Remember?

It’s in these contexts, then, that Google’s refusal to send one of its leaders to Washington earlier this month for Senate hearing on “Foreign Influence Operations’ Use of Social Media Platforms” becomes serious. Twitter sent CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook sent COO Sheryl Sandberg, but the search engine turned down the Senate committee’s requests for Google CEO Sundar Pichai or Alphabet CEO Larry Page to appear. Instead, there was an empty chair.

“In Page’s absence at the Senate hearing, louder voices filled the void, from senators criticizing Google for its dealings with China to pundits decrying Page as unpatriotic. McNamee, the early investor who’s since advocated for the company’s breakup, says Page and Pichai shirked their civic duty by skipping the hearing. ‘This is Corporate Governance 101,’ he says. ‘You’ve been invited to speak in front of a Senate hearing to protect our democracy, and your response is, ‘We’re too important to go’?”

So write Mark Bergen and Austin Carr in Businessweek, and they ask Where in the World Is Larry Page? Answer:

“It’s not just Washington. Even in Silicon Valley, people have started wondering: Where’s Larry? Page has long been reclusive, a computer scientist who pondered technical problems away from the public eye, preferring to chase moonshots over magazine covers. Unlike founder-CEO peers (Mark Zuckerberg comes to mind), he hasn’t presented at product launches or on earnings calls since 2013, and he hasn’t done press since 2015. He leaves day-to-day decisions to Pichai and a handful of advisers. But a slew of interviews in recent months with colleagues and confidants, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were worried about retribution from Alphabet, describe Page as an executive who’s more withdrawn than ever, bordering on emeritus, invisible to wide swaths of the company. Supporters contend he’s still engaged, but his immersion in the technology solutions of tomorrow has distracted him from the problems Google faces today.”

Larry Page has checked out and that’s not good news for Google. This Businessweek cover brilliantly captures his 404 status.

Businessweek


Allo, Allo, Allo: Productivity vs. Privacy vs. Pizza

Wednesday, 5 October, 2016 0 Comments

“The last 10 years have been about building a world that is mobile-first, turning our phones into remote controls for our lives. But in the next 10 years, we will shift to a world that is AI-first, a world where computing becomes universally available — be it at home, at work, in the car, or on the go —and interacting with all of these surfaces becomes much more natural and intuitive, and above all, more intelligent.” Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, yesterday.

The occasion was the announcement of the gorgeous new Pixel phone with its in-built artificial intelligence assistant. But there’s a price to be paid for the beauty and the smarts because AI will enable tech companies to gather even more information about us, and our data will be less protected than ever.

Allo, Allo, Allo

Google’s AI apprentice, which beavers busily inside the new messaging app Allo, will answer questions about sports, the weather, or for directions to the nearest café. Pichai pointed out yesterday that this is just the beginning. Google’s AI will learn about our preferences to better present personalized results and to answer more specific questions. It will get smarter, faster and more accurate every day. It will never rest.

Pixel To do this, it will gather data, endlessly. The places you visit, the foods you prefer, your thoughts about Trump will be collected. It can do this only by accessing all the information on everything stored on the phone, and it can also access “content on your screen”. To provide more accurate recommendations, the AI must gather and analyse our data, but for this to happen, our messages need to be unencrypted. Yes, Google offers best-of-breed encryption within Allo, but if you turn on encryption, you turn off the AI.

Here’s the reality: to stay competitive, the tech giants will have to provide AI-powered assistants. This is an arms race and the choice is fight or flight. Facebook’s Messenger also has opt-in encryption that’s regarded as the gold standard, but if users want to call an Uber from within the app, their messages have to be unencrypted.

AI is fun. But it’s also serious because it’s a potential revenue stream that will only flow if it’s filled with data. Investors in Google and Facebook know that an assistant that presents sponsored results when someone asks it to order that Pepperoni Feast could be huge for Alphabet and Domino’s. Yes, they offer people serious options to protect their data, but that means going without the sorcerer’s apprentice. Tech is betting that productivity and pizza, not privacy, will win.


Is machine learning magic?

Saturday, 30 July, 2016 0 Comments

That’s the question posed by Adam Geitgey, a “guy who does @programminglanguage at @company.” What is machine learning? Adam Geitgey defines it thus:

Machine learning is the idea that there are generic algorithms that can tell you something interesting about a set of data without you having to write any custom code specific to the problem. Instead of writing code, you feed data to the generic algorithm and it builds its own logic based on the data.

“Machine Learning is Fun!” says Adam Geitgey in what he describes as “The world’s easiest introduction to Machine Learning.”

How is this stuff related to the real world? Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai devoted much of Thursday’s second-quarter earnings call to the two “Ms” — the mobility that is Alphabet’s present and the machine learning that is its future. Quote:

“Machine learning is the engine that will drive our future, but it is already making our products better, and we use it every day. In fact, more than 100 teams are currently using machine learning, from StreetView to Gmail to voice search and more.”

Make that three Ms: magic, mobility, machine learning.