Stanford ignored the protests of dozens of people and urged former Google CEO Schmidt to attend the meeting.

  Artificial intelligence

Scene Description: Stanford University will hold an artificial intelligence conference next month, but the keynote speaker Schmidt, former Google CEO and Alphabet chairman of the conference have been protested by a joint open letter. But Stanford HAI’s response will not be canceled. What exactly caused this storm?

Key words: Stanford University HAI Former Google CEO Schmidt Open Letter

Stanford University will hold an artificial intelligence conference next month, inviting Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and Alphabet chairman, to deliver a keynote speech.

However, a group of scholars, activists and current employees of Google strongly urged the organizers to reconsider the decision, citing Schmidt’s acceptance of China’s censorship system, his handling of Google’s allegations of improper sexual conduct, and other disputes.


Schmidt has served on Google’s board of directors since 2001.

Why are members of Google’s board of directors now being protested after 18 years?

Stanford University’s Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) announced Schmidt as one of the main speakers of the upcoming “AI Ethics, Policy, and Governance Conference” (AI Ethics, Policy, and Governance Theme Conference).

This weekend, former Google scientist Jack Poulson (Jack Poursin) submitted an open letter to Stanford University in protest.

He wrote in the open letter: “Schmidt’s moral behavior has recently been seriously and credibly investigated, so I strongly demand that he be removed from his post as the main spokesman. Otherwise, I think the whole mission of your institute should be questioned. 」

Address of the open letter: …

The letter was jointly signed by more than 40 people, including 20 employees currently working on YouTube or Google. Other signatories include professors and researchers from universities such as Georgetown and Harvard, and co-founder of, an organization opposed to China’s censorship.

Last year, it was reported that Google was building a customized Chinese search engine, and Poulson then resigned from Google publicly.

Stanford responded that it would not cancel Schmidt’s invitation.

HAI said in a statement that it would not withdraw Schmidt’s invitation.

HAI was established in March this year with two co-directors: Stanford University Professor Li Feifei
Former Stanford University Dean John Etchemendy

A spokesman wrote: “We hope this meeting can be an inspiring example of our commitment to open and heated debates on some thorny issues that will benefit from public discussion. Cancelling our invitation to any speaker is a curse to the conference, HAI and the purpose of the university. 」

Rob Reich, professor at Stanford University and deputy director of HAI, also made a personal response to Poulson. Reich said he would oppose their petition.


Rob Reich responded to Poulson’s letter on September 2, hoping that the latter would openly debate with Schmidt and other participants.

He wrote that Schmidt did not give a separate keynote speech at this meeting, but held a dialogue with Marietje Schaake, a former member of the European Parliament. Due to various factors, Poulson’s requirements cannot be met.

Later, Poulsen was also invited to attend the meeting, and Poulsen also revealed that he would attend as planned.

Poulson tweeted that he did not ask Stanford University to remove Schmidt from the meeting. This time he wrote a petition, only hoping to cancel his thematic report.


Poulson said on Twitter that he would also protest outside the meeting.

In response to Reich, Poulson said there was no problem just attending the meeting, but if Schmidt was a keynote speaker, it meant Stanford recognized him as a moral leader. He suggested that the thematic report could be changed into a round-table discussion, instead of critics “lining up to ask questions to the keynote speaker.” 」

Poulson also raised the issue of potential benefits, because Schmidt has an unusual relationship with HAI. He is a member of the Institute’s advisory committee. Li Feifei, the joint director of HAI, is his former colleague and served as Google Cloud’s chief AI scientist.

Schmidt himself resigned as executive chairman of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) in April, but he still holds the position of technical adviser.

Google encourages employees to make bold comments

This is the end of the matter. As for Poulson’s concerns and disputes, no one can give a final conclusion.

However, it is gratifying that Google employees have been protesting against some policies and plans and have achieved some results. Including handling sexual harassment cases, relations with U.S. customs and border protection agencies, and its military projects such as Maven.

Last month, Google also issued new guidelines on workplace political speech to prevent unnecessary political disputes and improper disclosure of company information.

Their spokesman declared, “I hope Google employees will speak out bravely when they feel something is wrong, and we will fully adopt these opinions to promote some benign changes.”