Just how big a deal is artificial intelligence?
"AI is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on. I think of it as something more profound than electricity or fire."
That's a bold claim for anyone to make, but even more significant given the speaker: Google boss Sundar Pichai.
He was giving his take on the frontier technology in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.
In Davos, he described the joy his family experienced when they got their first telephone and how it changed their lives.
But he acknowledged that Western society has deep concerns about the potential negative side effects of artificial intelligence. Many have warned AI could take jobs from individuals and pose countless threats to human society.
"I think a lot of things will play out in more positive ways than people think. But the risks are important," Pichai said. "Any time you work with technology, you need to learn to harness the benefits while minimizing the downsides."
Tesla boss Elon Musk has launched a personal campaign against AI, describing the technology as a potentially existential threat to the human race.
Pichai said the best way to manage the development of AI and ensure it's not used for nefarious purposes is to work with world leaders on these issues, in the way the global community came together to tackle climate change.
"The only way to solve some of these deeper issues is global multilateral frameworks," he said.
One top priority for multilateral action: Making sure the advanced technology is never weaponized.
Countries "have to agree to demilitarize AI," he said.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has taken a similar view as Pichai. In a video last year, he said he was "really optimistic" about the potential for AI.
"I think that people who are naysayers and kind of try to drum up these doomsday scenarios -- I just, I don't understand it. I think it's really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible," Zuckerberg said in July.
Pichai oversees a company with tens of thousands of employees, tens of billions in revenue and products that reach billions of users.
He was born in India and rotated through a number of executive positions at Google over the course of a decade. He helped build Chrome into a top web browser. He oversaw Android and eventually took charge of all software products before becoming CEO.
- Google CEO: AI is 'more profound than electricity or fire'
- Google's controversial AI voice assistant won't hide its identity
- Google's plans to use AI to help the blind
- Google says it won't use AI for weapons
- This op-ed wasn't written by AI
- Control AI now or brace for nightmare future, experts warn
- AI companies spot a business opportunity in space
- Chinese AI startup dwarfs global rivals with $4.5 billion valuation
- You can run, but can't hide from AI in China
- MIT scientists created an AI-powered 'psychopath' named Norman