Google’s AI Push Comes with Messy People Problems

Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently declared that artificial intelligence fueled by powerful computers was more important to humanity than fire or electricity. And yet the search giant increasingly faces a variety of messy people problems as well.

The company has vowed to employ thousands of human checkers just to catch rogue YouTube posters, Russian bots and other purveyors of unsavory content. It's also on a buying spree to find office space for its burgeoning workforce in pricey Silicon Valley.

For a company that built its success on using faceless algorithms to automate many human tasks, this focus on people presents something of a conundrum. Yet it's also a necessary one as lawmakers ramp up the pressure on Google to deter foreign powers from abusing its platforms and its YouTube unit draws fire for offensive videos , particularly ones aimed at younger audiences.

In the latest quarter alone, Google parent Alphabet Inc. added 2,009 workers, for a total of 80,110. Over the last three years, it hired a net 2,245 people per quarter on average. That's nearly 173 per week, or 25 people per day.

Some of the extra workers this year will be part of Google's pledge to have 10,000 people across the company snooping out videos and other material that violate the company's policies -- but which computers can't catch on their own. That program will lead to what Google calls "significant growth " in personnel.

Google will take on even more workers in the current quarter now that it has closed its $1.1 billion purchase of part of hardware maker HTC, bringing onboard the 2,000-plus engineers who worked on the Pixel smartphone line.

On Thursday, Pichai spoke bullishly about content-checkers hiring, saying the investments now set the company up to capture growth in the future -- in the same call with investors that he...

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