Day 3 – Wednesday, March 27: Google AI
On the third day of the EnTP trip, we visited Google’s Mountain View campus and had the incredible opportunity to chat with Anand Babu, Director of New Products for Google AI.
Google AI, formerly Google Research and Google Brain, is Google’s artificial intelligence research and development group. The Google AI team seeks to solve real-world problems with machine learning. Some of their current initiatives include improving the range and quality of Google services (e.g. Google Translate, Google Maps), and partnering with cities to improve the standard of living.
AI is a recurring theme in MSL courses – ‘Assessing AI & Computational Technologies,’ ‘Innovation Lab,’ and ‘Data Privacy’ to name a few. However, with limited exposure to practical applications, students like myself were left with many lingering questions. Needless to say, from the moment we read the name ‘Google’ on our finalized trip schedule, we were excited for the opportunity to learn from Anand, who has deliberated and examined the implications and impacts of AI in depth.
We began our visit by touring the Google campus. In some ways, the campus is similar to a college setting: open-air working spaces, volleyball courts surrounded by low buildings, and even a laundry room for its employees! But a few minutes into the tour, our tour guide Cliff showed us many things that one can only experience at one of the greatest tech companies in the world. On the streets were bicycles that Google employees can use to navigate around the large campus, and on the roads were automated vehicles from Waymo, the company which began as a project within Google back in 2009. Every room we visited had a distinct look, finished with decorations by the employees themselves that used the space, yet deliberate in creating open a collaborative environment. After the tour, we met Anand for a discussion about Google AI.
During our meeting, we learned about Anand’s background and his work at Google AI. Anand’s electrical engineering background enabled him to understand and work deeply in machine learning for many years. As a co-founder of Sidewalk Labs, Anand helped lead Google’s efforts in creating more sustainable and equitable cities through the utilization of cutting-edge technology. Anand gave a presentation about the Google AI team, which included an overall description of the different technologies it has developed and simulation videos of working products. Following Anand’s presentation, we had a vibrant and engaging discussion.
We were impressed by the gravity of social responsibility that guides Google AI. As the team develops its technology, Google AI is mindful to ensure its AI solutions do not create new problems while solving old ones. Instead, the team is focused on using AI to fill in the gaps of existing shortcomings in order to enhance existing products and tools. A great demonstration of this mission-driven mindset is the implementation of AI in our transportation systems to increase mobility and sustainably, and in the healthcare industry to improve the scope and accuracy of disease detection.
Anand concluded by discussing his perspective on the growth and limitations of AI. His insights deepened our understanding and fascination with AI technology. With the help of neuroscience, AI has drawn much inspiration from the inner workings of our mind, but we as humans should remain confident in our ability to think critically, creatively, and impact the world in the most meaningful ways.
We are grateful to Anand for inviting us to Google’s campus and speaking with us about AI, one of the most important technologies impacting society. We look forward to seeing AI become a horizontal technology that can positively transform the world.