We may look on our time as the moment civilization was transformed as it was by fire, agriculture and electricity. In 2023, we learned that a machine taught itself how to speak to humans like a peer. Which is to say, with creativity, truth, error and lies. The technology, known as a chatbot, is only one of the recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence — machines that can teach themselves superhuman skills. We explored what’s coming next at Google, a leader in this new world. CEO Sundar Pichai told us AI will be as good or as evil as human nature allows. The revolution, he says, is coming faster than you know.
Scott Pelley: Do you think society is prepared for what’s coming?
Sundar Pichai: You know, there are two ways I think about it. On one hand I feel, no, because you know, the pace at which we can think and adapt as societal institutions, compared to the pace at which the technology’s evolving, there seems to be a mismatch. On the other hand, compared to any other technology, I’ve seen more people worried about it earlier in its life cycle. So I feel optimistic. The number of people, you know, who have started worrying about the implications, and hence the conversations are starting in a serious way as well.
Our conversations with 50-year-old Sundar Pichai started at Google’s new campus in Mountain View, California. It runs on 40% solar power and collects more water than it uses — high-tech that Pichai couldn’t have imagined growing up in India with no telephone at home.
Sundar Pichai: We were on a waiting list to get a rotary phone and for about five years. It finally came home I can still recall it vividly. It changed our lives. To me it was the first moment I understood the power of what getting access to technology meant and so probably led me to be doing what I’m doing today.
What he’s doing, since 2019, is leading both Google and its parent company, Alphabet, valued at $1.3 trillion. Worldwide, Google runs 90 percent of internet searches and 70 percent of smartphones. But its dominance was attacked this past February when Microsoft unveiled its new chatbot. In a race for AI dominance, Google just released its version named Bard.
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