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NYT Publishes Anti-Google Rant, Doesn’t Mention Author Is Facebook Board Member

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: The New York Times published an anti-Google screed by billionaire Peter Thiel last night but failed to mention a fun fact that readers might find relevant: Thiel sits on the board of Facebook, one of Google’s largest competitors. Thiel first blasted Google as “treasonous” last month, saying that the FBI and CIA should investigate the company for working with the Chinese government. The tech investor even asked if Google had been infiltrated by Chinese spies, a highly inflammatory charge that he didn’t substantiate. Thiel has now followed up his anti-Google remarks in a new piece for the Times praising President Donald Trump and railing against “globalization.”

Thiel’s central argument is that anyone helping China to develop artificial intelligence technologies is assisting China’s military because, he says, all AI should be seen first and foremost as having military applications: “A.I. is a military technology. Forget the sci-fi fantasy; what is powerful about actually existing A.I. is its application to relatively mundane tasks like computer vision and data analysis. Though less uncanny than Frankenstein’s monster, these tools are nevertheless valuable to any army — to gain an intelligence advantage, for example, or to penetrate defenses in the relatively new theater of cyberwarfare, where we are already living amid the equivalent of a multinational shooting war.” Thiel, who in 2017 sold the majority of his Facebook shares but remains on its board of directors, goes on to characterize Google as “naive” for opening an AI lab in China while deciding to not renew a contract for its work on Project Maven, a U.S. military initiative for which the company was developing an AI system to analyze drone footage, following employee backlash. Thiel also acknowledges that AI can be used for civilian purposes, but he claims that it doesn’t matter. He calls Google’s actions “shocking”: “A.I.’s military power is the simple reason that the recent behavior of America’s leading software company, Google — starting an A.I. lab in China while ending an A.I. contract with the Pentagon — is shocking. As President Barack Obama’s defense secretary Ash Carter pointed out last month, ‘If you’re working in China, you don’t know whether you’re working on a project for the military or not.'”

He continues: “How can Google use the rhetoric of ‘borderless’ benefits to justify working with the country whose ‘Great Firewall’ has imposed a border on the internet itself? This way of thinking works only inside Google’s cosseted Northern California campus, quite distinct from the world outside. The Silicon Valley attitude sometimes called ‘cosmopolitanism’ is probably better understood as an extreme strain of parochialism, that of fortunate enclaves isolated from the problems of other places — and incurious about them.”

At the end of the op-ed, where it says “Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor,” would be a great place to note that Peter Thiel is also on the board of Facebook.


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