“We are living in a new Renaissance thanks to technology”

This philologist came to California after selling her company to Intel. She worked for several leading companies before being hired to lead artificial intelligence research strategy at Google Research. “Incredible things are happening,” he says.

Pilar Manchon (1972) reached the top of Silicon Valley without being an engineer. This taxi driver’s daughter from Seville is a philologist and became the director of artificial intelligence research strategy at Google Research. He arrived in California at In 2013, Intel bought Indisys, the virtual assistant company he founded while still in college. Sale price: $26 million. After passing or

Pilar Manchon (1972) reached the top of Silicon Valley without being an engineer. This Seville taxi driver’s daughter is a philologist and became the director of artificial intelligence research strategy at Google Research. He arrived in California in In 2013, Intel bought Indisys, the virtual assistant company he founded while still in college. Sale price: $26 million. After passing through other giants like Amazon and Roku, it PhD in Computational Linguistics He leads the development of Google’s conversational systems. We spoke with her about technological developments and the titanic struggle for the future dominance of AI during a visit to Madrid, at her company’s offices in the Picasso Tower.

As a philologist, are you afraid of your profession disappearing due to artificial intelligence (AI)?
Progress in artificial intelligence must be interdisciplinary, we are not just talking about engineering and pure mathematics, but also about something that can change the way we live. We need natural sciences and humanities. Philology is the study of the etymology of language and how we communicate orally. Language is a fundamental part of how we think and organize our thoughts. This has a huge impact on artificial intelligence, and philologists have a lot to contribute.
From the outside it seems that Google and OpenAI are waging a cold war in this area with constant blows to effect. How do you see yourself in your company?
As with all technologies, there is always healthy competition. At Google, we care more about getting things done well than doing things fast. When you release a product, you have to do it responsibly and follow a very specific management process, which we know very well because we are pioneers. However, when you release new products, sometimes mistakes happen because nothing is perfect in the innovation process. It must be bold, ambitious and at the same time responsible. Our priority is not to compete, but to do the right thing and offer it to the world. We produce not just products, but tools that offer scientific breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity…

Sorry, but Google’s goal, like any other company, is to make money, not to benefit humanity.
Yes, but I’m talking to you about my area, Google Research, where we work with the product areas of the company, but we also have a huge part related to sustainability, education, medicine and other things that we launch. for this reason the overall benefit. Recently, an NGO told me that they are using our tools to forecast floods, data obtained from Google Research. Not only to prevent and provide relief to those affected, but also to provide them with economic transfers so that they have enough money to take the necessary precautions. Many of the tools we initially develop are simply mental exercises in what we can do, but they end up having a huge impact on the economy, especially the less developed ones. Of course, if you’re not making money, how are you going to finance it? A balance must be achieved.
The releases of the new ChatGPT and Google prototype demonstrate incredible progress in AI’s ability to simulate emotions. Does this aspect bother you?
I studied cognitive science, and it is the topic of emotions and multidimensional intelligence that interests me the most. At Google, we are quite pragmatic, we focus on efficient service, on creating clear interfaces that give you an idea of ​​what you can do, we focus less on the interesting, a little bit on playing around with what others do. I don’t think that this point of view is wrong, but I think there are more important things to do right now.

OpenAI appears to have favored anthropomorphism, the attribution of human qualities to its system, while Google is seeking to further differentiate machine from human.
As a cognitive scientist, I think anthropomorphism is inevitable. It’s not something created, it’s something we do, it’s inherent in the way we analyze the world. So what you can do is encourage it more or discourage it. The next option is to educate people so they know what’s going on and live with another phenomenon they know about. If you have an AI that’s with you every day, it’s been proven that we will have an anthropomorphic effect on it. This in itself doesn’t have to be negative. Yes, it would be if you used emotions to manipulate or do something bad. In fact, if you take empathy out of the interaction, the AI ​​will become unpleasant. Remember, we are social animals.

Can companies anticipate the dangers of technology addiction before developing a technology, such as falling in love with AI; privacy risks and information manipulation?
There are different levels. First, you have some fundamental principles of AI development, which are that you should not do bad things, follow the rules, and respect human rights, basically…
The problem is that technology is developing faster than the legal framework.
Of course, you should never forget about the framework. That’s why I tell you that there are different principles. Of course, it’s not enough, but it’s necessary. When it’s in your DNA, the next step is the steps of governance, both internal and external. That’s why Google works with various governments and international organizations, as well as other companies, to monitor the company internally and help manage what we do in society. When you’re a small company, you do what you decide, but a company like Google not only studies the benefits of the tool, but also the possible risks, to encourage its responsible use. This requires education at all levels and a lot of preventive responsibility. And then there’s the ethical predisposition, which includes creating barriers so that these tools are not used for bad purposes.

Technology Expert Business Insider warns Google’s new AI developments could be a ‘death blow’ for many startupsFor example, search assistant and your email could threaten small businesses, and website creators fear that a widely used AI search engine could disrupt web traffic.
I haven’t read the article you linked to, but I can tell you that I’ve made it clear to the boards of companies I’ve met that we have a huge opportunity to have tools that will give us a competitive advantage if they adopt them early. There are always people who might be impacted in some way by an innovation, although I think the impact on creativity in this case is much more positive. Google is committed to the fundamental technologies that allow you to build on top of them.
The transformation of Google’s search engine thanks to generative artificial intelligence seems to be a very important turning point. There are experts who talk about “changing the world order.”
We are in the moment, and I say this with a certain romanticism that I describe as a kind of new Renaissance. We are talking about an information structure for performing complex tasks. Let’s break down the general search that any person engages in into its fundamental components. If you are looking for a trip to the Canary Islands, using a smarter search will help you break down your trip into different options based on research and all the information. reviews accessible and saves a lot of time than doing it piecemeal.

“We’re talking about medicine, longevity, new building materials, theoretical physics… I’m even dizzy thinking about what can be done.”

Pilar Manchon

What does Project Astra mean for the company? And Veo, the AI-powered video generator that competes with Sona?
Before us is a real virtual assistant, which is a demo version that previously seemed like science fiction. It sprouts and opens up a future full of possibilities. For its part, Veo allows you to create videos with a very interesting level of quality and creativity, which will be very useful for creative activities, since it allows you to create, view and show them at a very high speed. We worked on this with people who won Oscars.

Are we far from the full development of artificial intelligence?
We have a long way to go. But we live in an era of sufficient technological maturity to help us make exponential leaps in what can be done. We are at a stage where in the next five years there will be a revolution in various fields of knowledge. Incredible things are happening. The AlphaFold topic, which has enabled amazing acceleration in protein structure prediction, is an example of the scale of what’s to come. What effect will this have in a short time? We’re talking about medicine, longevity, new building materials, theoretical physics… It makes me giddy to think about what can be done and at what speed we will move forward thanks to this destruction.
How can Google maintain its leadership in 10 years, given the ups and downs of technology?
Talent is a fundamental component. The company doesn’t just want to move forward, it wants to do so responsibly. On the other hand, there is active cooperation both with governments and with organizations, civil society and business. Ten years from now I would be talking about team, responsibility and very positive ambition for what we can do.

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