Alphabet, the parent of Google, generated 86 percent of its revenue from advertising last year. On Friday, the woman leading its best shot at building a second big revenue stream said she is leaving. Diane Greene, a storied entrepreneur and cloud computing executive, has been leading Google's cloud computing division since early 2016. Snagging her was seen as a good sign for the company's effort to compete with Amazon and Microsoft in the booming business of providing computing infrastructure for other sites and businesses. Greene's announcement Friday morning that she will move on in January is being read as the latest evidence that the project hasn't gone as well as planned.
After three years at the helm of Google's Cloud business, Diane Greene announced Friday that she's stepping down from the role. She'll be replaced by Thomas Kurian, a longtime Oracle executive who recently left after reported disagreements with Oracle co-founder and CTO Larry Ellison. Greene will continue as CEO of Google Cloud through January to ensure a smooth transition, she wrote in a blog post.
Just a week after it was announced, Google's new AI ethics board is already in trouble. The board, founded to guide "responsible development of AI" at Google, would have had eight members and met four times over the course of 2019 to consider concerns about Google's AI program. Those concerns include how AI can enable authoritarian states, how AI algorithms produce disparate outcomes, whether to work on military applications of AI, and more. Of the eight people listed in Google's initial announcement, one (privacy researcher Alessandro Acquisti) has announced on Twitter that he won't serve, and two others are the subject of petitions calling for their removal -- Kay Coles James, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and Dyan Gibbens, CEO of drone company Trumbull Unmanned. Thousands of Google employees have signed onto the petition calling for James's removal.
Last July, 13 U.S. military commanders and technology executives met at the Pentagon's Silicon Valley outpost, two miles from Google headquarters. It was the second meeting of an advisory board set up in 2016 to counsel the military on ways to apply technology to the battlefield. Milo Medin, a Google vice president, turned the conversation to using artificial intelligence in war games. Eric Schmidt, Google's former boss, proposed using that tactic to map out strategies for standoffs with China over the next 20 years. A few months later, the Defense Department hired Google's cloud division to work on Project Maven, a sweeping effort to enhance its surveillance drones with technology that helps machines think and see.
For months, a growing faction of Google employees has tried to force the company to drop out of a controversial military program called Project Maven. More than 4,000 employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a petition asking Google to cancel the contract. Last week, Gizmodo reported that a dozen employees resigned over the project. "There are a bunch more waiting for job offers (like me) before we do so," one engineer says. On Friday, employees communicating through an internal mailing list discussed refusing to interview job candidates in order to slow the project's progress.