Meredith Whittaker, president of Signal, discusses her experiences at Google, her involvement in the employee walkout over sexual harassment, and her concerns about the moral and ethical direction of big tech companies. She highlights the challenges of regulating AI and opposes the UK government’s online safety bill. Whittaker emphasizes the importance of privacy and encryption, and criticizes the idea of scanning user messages and relying on AI moderation systems.
- Whittaker’s organizing of the Google employee walkout was driven by her concerns about the company’s profit-driven goals and its secret contract with the Department of Defense. She emphasizes the need to address the moral and ethical lapses in big tech companies.
- She argues that algorithms cannot be unbiased due to the data they are trained on, which reflects historical and present-day inequalities. Whittaker also challenges the notion that there is a business case for equality, as it would require powerful individuals to give up their positions and salaries.
- Whittaker highlights the ousting of Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell from Google’s AI ethics unit, demonstrating the company’s resistance to criticism of its systems. She contrasts their warnings about inequalities perpetuated by AI with the more convenient fears of existential risk expressed by figures like Geoffrey Hinton.
- As president of Signal, Whittaker emphasizes the importance of privacy and encryption in a world of mass surveillance. She opposes the UK’s online safety bill, arguing that client-side scanning and AI moderation systems are impractical and expensive, and they would require significant human intervention.
- Whittaker criticizes the hype surrounding AI, which paints these systems as infallible and leads to unrealistic expectations. She believes that tech companies should take responsibility for the impact of their systems and prioritize the social good over profits.