Talking Tech and AI with Google CEO Sundar Pichai


yeah i know soon so as soon as we hit

record then the noises start so now a

little landscaping a little little


uh have you had it through the pandemic

has it been hard kind of doing stuff

like this yeah weirdly it’s gotten

easier because it’s quieter in our

studio because we share the building

with other tenants

and the pandemic happens and then a lot

of them work from home so now the

building’s quiet

yeah so that was kind of nice first of

all thanks for joining me sundar i’m

sure you’re

extremely busy at this particular time

of year so i appreciate the time

one of my favorite parts of doing this

uh talking tech series is i get to talk

to people who have a unique perspective

on tech

and i feel like as a ceo of google and


you’re almost required to have like some

vision of a future uh i’m curious

the number one question i always get is

what’s the next big thing so i’ll just

leave you with this

number one faq what is what does the

future hold what are your your big

visions of the next five to ten years of


it’s a big question um you know the

in some ways we tried to communicate

aspects of that

at io yesterday and i’ve always felt at

google and at alphabet

we are working on deeper computer

science and ai

in a way by which you can you can make

real advances

but then take that and apply it

practically to be helpful

be it small moments or bigger moments i

see a lot of potential

in the advances in ai but it’s equally

important that you have a real framework

by which you’re applying it

right and that’s why when we say helpful

we have four attributes we focus on

knowledge success health and happiness

and i actually

think through the work we do the

products i see

and it could be something like in maps

you know adding eco routes or

deducting breaking moments and

heartbreaking moments and making changes

or it could be big like the mammography


or or derma assist and so on but you

know it’s thinking through

with that framework in mind definitely i

think ai comes up a lot especially when

you watch a google keynote ai

is sort of part of the solution for

almost every problem you guys solve

uh i wonder i assume you have to have a

pretty optimistic view about the future

of ai and

and the structures you want to keep in

place around it but how much do you

think about

the potential negatives or potential

downsides as ai

gets more advanced because i’ve talked

to people who have a much more negative

view about it

no i i think it’s fair

to be worried about worried about any

any new technology you know technology

has dual sites and i feel humanity’s

journey has been

at each stage how do you figure out to


technology in a way that benefits


and and for ai is so profound

i i think that that’ll be true for ai

too but i think

the way you do it is by working at it

making progress

uh being transparent about it engaging

in conversations and

over time governments and there have to

be other frameworks

to evolve it yeah yeah should it be up

to governments or should it be up to

those because this is a problem we see

all the time is people who don’t know as

much about the thing are in charge of

regulating the thing

should it be up to companies like google

to be as responsible as possible or

should there also

be government structure around ai

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i think a combination of all that i

think companies have to

definitely you know be responsible

because they are

often developing technology early and

you’re at the cutting edge of technology

and it takes a while for governments to

you know

think about it and address yeah but i

think public-private partnerships are


academia plays a strong role like an

academic institutions and research

over time for something like ai you

would need no

different for something as big as

climate change you have concepts like

paris agreement

you know you would need global

frameworks because uh

to to uh to think about it but i am

optimistic i mean i think

you know i see the benefits of all of

the how all of this can impact and

you know we have worked together hard to

address issues in the past so

i think it’s easy to be optimistic

because there’s so many good cool things


from ai one of my favorite announcements

from you guys was google

sort of adapting their computational

photography to better account for

different skin tones

and it seems like such a small thing but

it affects so many people i mean part of

the reason i use the cameras that i do

is because it can handle this latitude

and different skin tones and i like the

way they look but i’m curious if you

feel like there’s other

quick practical applications of ai in

the smartphone world kind of like that

yeah i definitely think so i was excited

about project douglas you know my

daughter had the same reaction i was

you know she literally had the same

reaction when she first heard about it

she’s like

was talking about the pictures and she

felt you know she wasn’t represented


and and so i’m glad we addressed it and

there’s more work to be done there

we have had the same experience with

accessibility so live captioning

videos and you can do it on device and

you can and

the thing i always like about these

things is even if you

think of it as a feature to help the

disabled community

it has wide applicability beyond that as

well you know you could be in a meeting

and you want to listen to a video and

the captioning still works right and

or in a crowded place and so on so i

think all of this is much wider

applicability too

definitely the other ai part that was a

little crazy

was i think it’s called lambda

correct me if i’m wrong l-a-m-d-a but

you you demonstrated this uh

conversational aspect of ai where it

sort of uses information

to answer questions about itself so the

demo was

talking to pluto which was pretty cool

you know pluto gets to defend itself

maybe it’s a little underrated

but i i imagine like my brain

immediately went to

well what other things could you

synthesize a conversation with

and i went straight to like people like

other existing people

are there lines you won’t cross with

things like project lambda where like

should you not be allowed to synthesize

conversation with someone

who’s alive or how do you think about

like where lambda can go

um you know i want to stress lambda

still research

right and you know so we’re pushing the

boundary there

this is why let me step this is why we

you know articulated our ai principles

very clearly

and publicly so that we have a framework

to think through

anything like this when it comes to

product i think you know it’s really


like ai is not ever used in an


way or you know or everything through

the right constructs for how it is used

and so

we are much more focused on using lambda

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understand language deeper okay and and

in the context

you can imagine talking to google

assistant yeah so first of all search


if it understood language deeper or even

in youtube when we are trying to

understand what’s in a video

right the fact that we can understand

language deeper would make a big

difference so that’s the primary purpose

but in the in in conversing with an

assistant we can make

conversations much more natural so the

intent is into

uh you know pluto and a paper airplane


more benign examples and but you know we

would have to have

ethical principles and guidelines uh

around anything we developed there

what smartphone do you have in your

pocket and why that’s that’s probably

the number one question people want me

to ask you

you know it changes a lot uh depends on

the day of the week

uh probably not as many as you play

around with

but but someday you know it may not be

too far off either

but i do try out almost every phone

at least for a little bit uh i shouldn’t

say every phone most phones okay

um you know but uh

right now in my pocket it’s a pixel

actually that texas should pull it out

yeah it could be any pixel so you know

it’s a

it’s it’s a pixel but it’s it’s the

released version of the pixel

now but i you know i’ve enjoyed using

the s21

and uh you know and

i check out everything that comes in the

market oneplus maybe

and you know play around with it iphones

across our products work across

everything so i’m testing a lot of


yeah it feels like if you’re if you’re

in i mean you started at google

with chrome and then obviously with

android and now

overseeing everything does it ever feel

like you’re too

in the weeds to appreciate how other

people might use the product

because when i’m making a video for

example i might spend

five six hours on an edit and then i i’m

watching it back looking for little

things and i might

kind of lose the bigger picture of the

person who jumps in for the first

time if you’re using android 12 and new

features coming out

and you’re testing it on on whatever

daily phone it is does that ever

feel like a challenge to to step back

and remember like

people have to use this for the first

time and how they’ll interact with it or

do you feel like

you’ve sort of got that down to a

science no no well what are you talking


it’s a it’s the art of product

management i think stepping back

so there’s a difference between hey

translation is exciting

we can build it in chrome to how would

you do it in a way in which for

most people it kind of naturally works

yeah and

and designing it are two different

things i think and so there’s a lot of


but i actually find your point even

broader a lot of the way when i do

reviews with other teams

the perspective i almost always bring

and it could be anyone else in my

position is

you know because the teams are so in the

effort of what they are doing

yeah it’s it’s tough for them to

sometimes see the forest

instead of the trees and and so it’s a

lot of what real life is about i think

i want to ask about your your like

overall view of

you know becoming a ceo of google like

you grew up in india

and you’ve mentioned didn’t have access

to the internet or a computer

for a long time and then you came to the

us and you had access to the internet

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are there things that still surprise you

about like

the advancements in tech and

accessibility today even though you’ve


so much of a difference between the

beginning of your career and

and now i think for me because growing

up every moment was discreet like

i had to wait a long time to get

something and then i saw the impact of


right you know so waited five years on a

waitlist to get a rotary

telephone right and you may not know

what a rotary telephone heard about this

i heard about those but you know kind of

changed the life uh

for me my parents in our streets people

would come to our home to kind of use it


talk to their family and friends so i’ve

always had that

you know the impact of how it can change

people’s lives

where it most directly impacted me is i

got inspired by the one laptop for child


which which was being done by negroponte

at the time out of mit

and i today look back at chromebooks or

you know android phones and to me feels

like you know

it’s an explicit continuation of that

journey which which was inspiring to me

right here’s maybe an interesting

question uh

the tech ceo

has sort of become like its own genre of

celebrity in a weird way

in a way that it probably wasn’t even

thought about 10 20 years ago

do you think about that at all like

obviously there’s this uh

this new curiosity about the some of the

most powerful companies in the world and

the people that run them

being a pretty understated guy i would

assume you’re probably

not all about the spotlight but i’m

curious what you feel about that

you know i i recognize the

responsibility which comes with it

you know the scale at which tech is

working in the world

uh i think i think there is an

importance to it and rightfully there is

accountability that comes with it and i


the importance of engaging and

explaining yourselves internally and


uh that comes with it but beyond that i

don’t think too much about it and

you know on a day-to-day basis is not

how i approach it yeah it’s fair i like

that answer uh

so let’s say you fast forward let’s go

50 years into the future

you’re retired from google from tech

how do you want your your fingerprint

here in the tech world to be remembered

you know uh i would i would love

allow it to be about you know enabling

radically more access to both

information and computing to

more people that’s a big part of what i

think about

you know really driven by it but beyond


you know i’ve always been interested in


deeper uh technological progress

and the

obviously you have to take that and

translate it into product and business

success right and it goes hand in hand

but i think you know

driving ai forward responsibly uh

you know it’s a big part of what i think

and work a lot on

for sure all right well i mean i’m

looking forward to a lot of the new

stuff that’s coming out

very excited about android 12 and like

all the

customization and and what is it called

something you

materialize materially you like that’s a

cool idea so i’m looking forward to

trying that out but

thanks for the time i appreciate the

interview and hopefully get to do it

again sometime

all right thanks marcus appreciate it

yeah thanks



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