The AI Fairness Hype is Real

Who knew that CBS works for Silicon Valley? And yet, when I watched their show Eye on America this morning, that’s what I discovered: an entire hour devoted to hyping the likes of Meta and Boston Scientific.

Titled Emerging AI and robotics tech, the hour was devoted to asking the most powerful folks in BigTech to report on how cool, useful, and yet fair AI is. For example, they interviewed the “godfathers of AI:” Yann Le Cun at Meta, Geoffrey Hinton who until recently was a big deal at Google but is now calling for regulation, and Yoshuo Bengio at MILA in Montreal, who is one of those long-term existential risk people whose main goal seems to be to talk about possible future catastrophes instead of existing current harms.

They spent the most time with Yann. Before going into what he said, I want to recall how LeCun once replied, in an answer to a question from the audience at a Brooklyn event I attended in 2017, that thinking about fairness in AI was “above his paygrade,” a laughable comment even at the time, when he was the Head of Deep Learning at Facebook. Now he’s Chief AI Scientist at Meta, making I’m sure even more money, and I’ll bet there are few folks working there who actually get paid to think about fairness, and zero that get paid close to what LeCun gets paid.

Anyhoo, now I guess he does get paid to talk about fairness in AI. And this morning, CBS invited him (starting at 7:45) to wax poetic about how he, as an academic researcher, really cares about open source research, which at Meta is how they are doing some of their AI stuff. Just in case you’re wondering how far this principle actually goes, take a look here at how academia has been coopted into becoming propagandists for BigTech.

LeCun maintains that fear of long term existential risk is pure sci-fi (even a broken clock!), that he trusts people and the world’s institutions to limit the repercussions of AI harms – even while he opposed AI regulation. LeCun also “sees an upside” in autonomous weapons, which he argues are “necessary for the protection of democracy” instead of being good or bad. The closest thing I saw to actual skeptical journalism was the line that came from the narrator (11:00), describing LeCun as “armed with a mix of optimism and inevitability.” OK, but how about interviewing someone else less optimistic and/or who can imagine another future?

If we have folks like LeCun weighing in on the ethics of AI and autonomous weapons, we must have reached a kind of event horizon in field of AI journalism, where nothing means anything and it’s all being sucked towards some nearly infinite source of gravity. CBS, you can do better.

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Cathy ONeil mathbabe