A whale of a tale about responsibility and AI

A couple of years ago, Google AI for Social Good’s Bioacoustics team created a ML model that helps the scientific community detect the presence of humpback whale sounds using acoustic recordings. This tool, developed in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, helps biologists study whale behaviors, patterns, population and potential human interactions. 

We realized other researchers could use this model for their work, too — it could help them better understand the oceans and protect key biodiversity areas. We wanted to freely share this model, but  struggled with a big dilemma: On one hand, it could help ocean scientists. On the other, though, we worried about whale poachers or other bad actors. What if they used our shared knowledge in a way we didn’t intend? 

We decided to consult with experts in the field in order to help us responsibly open source this machine learning model. We worked with Google’s Responsible Innovation team to use our AI Principles — a guide to responsibly developing technology — to make a decision.

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