Google CEO Sundar Pichai claimed in an interview with the New York Times, Thursday, that “Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems,” and defended Google’s cooperation with authoritarian governments.
After being asked by the New York Times whether he feels “like Silicon Valley has retained that idealism that struck you when you arrived here,” Pichai responded, “There’s still that optimism. But the optimism is tempered by a sense of deliberation. Things have changed quite a bit.”
“You know, we deliberate about things a lot more, and we are more thoughtful about what we do. But there’s a deeper thing here, which is: Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems. It was always naïve to think so,” he continued. “Technology is an enabler, but humanity has to deal with humanity’s problems. I think we’re both over-reliant on technology as a way to solve things and probably, at this moment, over-indexing on technology as a source of all problems, too.”
In the interview, Pichai also spoke about Google’s censored Chinese search engine project, declaring, “One of the things that’s not well understood, I think, is that we operate in many countries where there is censorship. When we follow ‘right to be forgotten’ laws, we are censoring search results because we’re complying with the law.”
“I’m committed to serving users in China. Whatever form it takes, I actually don’t know the answer,” he proclaimed. “It’s not even clear to me that search in China is the product we need to do today.”
Google, under Pichai, is currently working on a censored search engine for the Chinese government, code-named Project Dragonfly, which will stop dissidents from searching for terms related to human rights, democracy, and protest, and will link searches to the searcher’s phone number — eroding anonymity.
Several employees have resigned from Google over the project, which executives told employees to “keep quiet” about, for fear of being complicit with the “erosion of protection for dissidents.”
On the topic of the mass Google employee walkout protest against sexual harassment at the company last week, Pichai noted, “People are walking out because they want us to improve and they want us to show we can do better. We’re acknowledging and understanding we clearly got some things wrong. And we have been running the company very differently for a while now.”
“But going through a process like that, you learn a lot. For example, we have established channels by which people can report issues,” he explained. “But those processes are much harder on the people going through it than we had realized.”