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Google told its scientists to ‘strike a positive tone’ in AI research – documents

Alphabet Inc’s Google this year moved to tighten control over its scientists’ papers by launching a “sensitive topics” review, and in at least three cases requested authors refrain from casting its technology in a negative light, according to internal communications and…

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OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google this year moved to tighten control over its scientists’ papers by launching a “sensitive topics” review, and in at least three cases requested authors refrain from casting its technology in a negative light, according to internal communications and interviews with researchers involved in the work.

FILE PHOTO: An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Google’s new review procedure asks that researchers consult with legal, policy and public relations teams before pursuing topics such as face and sentiment analysis and categorizations of race, gender or political affiliation, according to internal webpages explaining the policy.

“Advances in technology and the growing complexity of our external environment are increasingly leading to situations where seemingly inoffensive projects raise ethical, reputational, regulatory or legal issues,” one of the pages for research staff stated. Reuters could not determine the date of the post, though three current employees said the policy began in June.

Google declined to comment for this story.

The “sensitive topics” process adds a round of scrutiny to Google’s standard review of papers for pitfalls such as disclosing of trade secrets, eight current and former employees said.

For some projects, Google officials have intervened in later stages. A senior Google manager reviewing a study on content recommendation technology shortly before publication this summer told authors to “take great care to strike a positive tone,” according to internal correspondence read to Reuters.

The manager added, “This doesn’t mean we should hide from the real challenges” posed by the software.

Subsequent correspondence from a researcher to reviewers shows authors “updated to remove all references to Google products.” A draft seen by Reuters had mentioned Google-owned YouTube.

Four staff researchers, including senior scientist Margaret Mitchell, said they believe Google is starting to interfere with crucial studies of potential technology harms.

“If we are researching the appropriate thing given our expertise, and we are not permitted to publish that on grounds that are not in line with high-quality peer review, then we’re getting into a serious problem of censorship,” Mitchell said.

Google states on its public-facing website that its scientists have “substantial” freedom.

Tensions between Google and some of its staff broke into view this month after the abrupt exit of scientist Timnit Gebru, who led a 12-person team with Mitchell focused on ethics in artificial intelligence software (AI).

Gebru says Google fired her after she questioned an order not to publish research claiming AI that mimics speech could disadvantage marginalized populations. Google said it accepted and expedited her resignation. It could not be determined whether Gebru’s paper underwent a “sensitive topics” review.

Google Senior Vice President Jeff Dean said in a statement this month that Gebru’s paper dwelled on potential harms without discussing efforts underway to address them.

Dean added that Google supports AI ethics scholarship and is “actively working on improving our paper review processes, because we know that too many checks and balances can become cumbersome.”

‘SENSITIVE TOPICS’

The explosion in research and development of AI across the tech industry has prompted authorities in the United States and elsewhere to propose rules for its use. Some have cited scientific studies showing that facial analysis software and other AI can perpetuate biases or erode privacy.

Google in recent years incorporated AI throughout its services, using the technology to interpret complex search queries, decide recommendations on YouTube and autocomplete sentences in Gmail. Its researchers published more than 200 papers in the last year about developing AI responsibly, among more than 1,000 projects in total, Dean said.

Studying Google services for biases is among the “sensitive topics” under the company’s new policy, according to an internal webpage. Among dozens of other “sensitive topics” listed were the oil industry, China, Iran, Israel, COVID-19, home security, insurance, location data, religion, self-driving vehicles, telecoms and systems that recommend or personalize web content.

The Google paper for which authors were told to strike a positive tone discusses recommendation AI, which services like YouTube employ to personalize users’ content feeds. A draft reviewed by Reuters included “concerns” that this technology can promote “disinformation, discriminatory or otherwise unfair results” and “insufficient diversity of content,” as well as lead to “political polarization.”

The final publication instead says the systems can promote “accurate information, fairness, and diversity of content.” The published version, entitled “What are you optimizing for? Aligning Recommender Systems with Human Values,” omitted credit to Google researchers. Reuters could not determine why.

A paper this month on AI for understanding a foreign language softened a reference to how the Google Translate product was making mistakes following a request from company reviewers, a source said. The published version says the authors used Google Translate, and a separate sentence says part of the research method was to “review and fix inaccurate translations.”

For a paper published last week, a Google employee described the process as a “long-haul,” involving more than 100 email exchanges between researchers and reviewers, according to the internal correspondence.

The researchers found that AI can cough up personal data and copyrighted material – including a page from a “Harry Potter” novel – that had been pulled from the internet to develop the system.

A draft described how such disclosures could infringe copyrights or violate European privacy law, a person familiar with the matter said. Following company reviews, authors removed the legal risks, and Google published the paper.

Reporting by Paresh Dave and Jeffrey Dastin; editing by Jonathan Weber and Edward Tobin

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Source: https://in.reuters.com/article/us-alphabet-google-research-focus-idINKBN28X1CB

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Reuters

Largest Boeing 737 MAX model set for maiden flight -source

Boeing Co (BA.N) was readying the largest member of its 737 MAX family for its maiden flight on Friday, a person familiar with the matter said, as the planemaker tries to close a sales gap with a competing Airbus (AIR.PA) jet.

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Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked in an aerial photo at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. July 1, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

SEATTLE, June 17 (Reuters) – Boeing Co (BA.N) was readying the largest member of its 737 MAX family for its maiden flight on Friday, a person familiar with the matter said, as the planemaker tries to close a sales gap with a competing Airbus (AIR.PA) jet.

The first voyage of the 737 MAX 10, expected around 10 a.m. local time from the Seattle area, the person said, heralds months of testing and certification before it enters service in 2023.

In an unusual departure from the PR buzz surrounding first flights, the event was expected to be kept low-key as Boeing tries to recover from overlapping crises caused by the 20-month safety grounding of the MAX and the global pandemic.

Boeing’s 230-seat 737-10 is designed to close the gap between its 178-to-220-seat 737-9, and the 185-to-240-seat A321neo, which dominates the top end of the narrowbody jet market, worth some $3.5 trillion over 20 years.

However, the market opportunity for the 737 MAX 10 is constrained by the jet’s range of 3,300 nm (6,100 km), which falls short of the A321neo’s 4,000 nm.

Boeing must also complete safety certification of the plane under a tougher regulatory climate following two fatal crashes of a smaller 737 MAX version grounded the model for nearly two years – with a safety ban still in place in China.

Relatively slow sales of the 737 MAX 10 and slightly smaller MAX 9 have given Boeing a strategic headache, analysts say.

It once studied plans to tinker with the 737 MAX 10 to extend the range against the A321neo, but is now weighing a bolder plan to replace the single-aisle 757, which overlaps with the top end of the MAX family.

Even so, Boeing is stepping up efforts to sell the 737 MAX 10, with key targets including Ireland’s Ryanair (RYA.I).

On display on Friday will be a revamped landing gear system illustrating the battle between Boeing and Airbus to squeeze as much mileage out of the current generation of single-aisles. It raises the landing gear’s height during take-off and landing, a design needed to compensate for the MAX 10’s extra length and prevent the tail scraping the runway on take-off.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by David Gregorio and Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Boeing’s 230-seat 737-10 is designed to close the gap between its 178-to-220-seat 737-9, and the 185-to-240-seat A321neo, which dominates the top end of the narrowbody jet market, worth some $3.5 trillion over 20 years.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/largest-boeing-737-max-model-set-maiden-flight-source-2021-06-18/

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EXCLUSIVE Galp to hold off on LNG investment until Mozambique ensures security

Portugal’s Galp Energia (GALP.LS), a partner in an Exxon Mobil-led gas consortium in Mozambique, will not invest in onshore plants there until authorities guarantee security and social stability, which may take time, CEO Andy Brown told Reuters.

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The logo of GALP is seen next to a petrol station of GALP company near Lisbon, Portugal July 30, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/Files

Portugal’s Galp Energia (GALP.LS), a partner in an Exxon Mobil-led gas consortium in Mozambique, will not invest in onshore plants there until authorities guarantee security and social stability, which may take time, CEO Andy Brown told Reuters.

This marks a second setback to Mozambique’s hopes to develop a major liquefied nature gas (LNG) hub in the coming years after TotalEnergies (TOTF.PA) suspended its own, separate LNG project in the country.

Attacks by militants in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region, near the $30 billion Rovuma liquefied natural gas project, have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee the area. read more

The Mozambican government has said it expects the consortium to take the final investment decision, already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year.

But the CEO of Galp, which has a 10% stake in the consortium, told Reuters on Monday his company did not include investments in Rovuma’s onshore facilities in its net capital expenditure plan for the next five years.

“It means that at the moment it’s very hard for us to predict when the time to invest will be,” Brown said.

“Last year we were really planning to have built Rovuma by 2025 and I don’t want to make a promise on Rovuma and then disappoint the market again,” he said.

“We continue to monitor security developments in the region,” said Exxon (XOM.N) spokesperson Todd Spitler, adding that the company is working with the government of Mozambique “to enable development of this world class resource.”

The other major partner, Italy’s Eni (ENI.MI), declined to comment.

“Before Galp starts investing in the project, the government needs to work with the local population to create the right kind of stability and social cohesion, as well as security, on the ground … That may take a while,” Brown said.

Brown said that once France’s TotalEnergies, which stopped construction of a separate LNG project near Rovuma due to the latest attacks in March and is working with Mozambique to ensure stability in the area, has reliably resumed the work, “we will be in a position to consider our own project”.

Despite the setbacks, Mozambique with its attractive gas projects is “a really important country for Galp”, Brown said, and the consortium is “working to get the cost to a level where this project is really competitive”.

Brown said that over the next five years, Brazil will absorb “the vast majority” of the 320 million to 400 million euros ($388 million to $485 million) of net capex which Galp has allocated to upstream annually, while there will be “some investment in floating LNG in Mozambique and some small investments in Angola”.

The investments in Brazil will be “mostly allocated to already sanctioned developments, including the Bacalhau I,” he said.

($1 = 0.8252 euros)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Mozambican government has said it expects the consortium to take the final investment decision, already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/exclusive-galp-says-it-wont-invest-rovuma-until-mozambique-ensures-security-2021-06-14/

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Google dangles paid upgrade to businesses using Gmail addresses

Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday unveiled an option for small businesses to upgrade their Gmail accounts for greater calendaring, video chat and email newsletter functionalities.

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Google is seen on a building at La Defense business and financial district in Courbevoie near Paris, France, September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday unveiled an option for small businesses to upgrade their Gmail accounts for greater calendaring, video chat and email newsletter functionalities.

Google Workspace Individual, which starts at $7.99 monthly including a temporary $2 discount, adds to the company’s expanding efforts to have users subscribe to some of its services such as YouTube and Google Photos in exchange for more support and features than are available for free. Subscription sales could help Google grow revenue beyond advertising.

The small-business offering compares with existing plans aimed at larger organizations that have their own websites to use in email addresses.

Javier Soltero, vice president for Google Workspace, told reporters that his unit had been informally saving photos of business cards or work vehicles mentioning an “@Gmail.com” address to “remind ourselves of the sheer number of people using our consumer products to run their businesses.”

Those that upgrade for appointment booking, newsletter production and other tools should be able to provide a more professional experience to clients, he said.

Workspace Individual will launch soon in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Japan.

Google announced other changes to Workspace on Monday. Big businesses will be able to control encryption of their files on Google Drive for the first time and prevent Google from unlocking them. Airbus SE is an early customer.

All users now have access to Google Chat, the company’s successor to instant-message program Google Hangouts.

Now for the first time in years, free and paid users alike will have the same set of chat and email services, providing a common foundation that makes it simpler to develop new features, Soltero said.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/alphabet-google-workspace/google-dangles-paid-upgrade-to-businesses-using-gmail-addresses-idUSL2N2NT21G

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