Industry Innovations with Google Cloud

A conversation with Google Cloud’s Patricia Florissi about the digital dichotomies of the decade and the role of government.

Published On Oct 22, 2021


Technology is a series of tradeoffs. Blockchain gives us permanence in a digital world—at a large energy cost. Cloud computing gives us on-demand capacity—as long as we share it with others. And algorithms can help us navigate the world—if we provide access to information to learn from.

Patricia Florissi is a technical director in the office of the CTO at Google Cloud. She wrestles with these tradeoffs on a regular basis, something I had a chance to learn about in a recent conversation for the FWD50 Industry Innovations series.

Patricia outlined three distinct tradeoffs as computing becomes ubiquitous, and how Google Cloud is addressing them:

  • We want data privacy but also AI to be as free of unfair bias as possible. On one hand, we want technology that works for everyone – aligned with human rights, in areas such as privacy, unintended bias, and inclusion. But on the other hand, it is necessary to have access to appropriate data in order to test, validate, and train models.
  • The carbon footprint needed to make computing ubiquitous. Google uses offsets to make Google Cloud—and all Google services—carbon neutral.
  • The loss of data sovereignty and autonomy when putting all the compute workloads into a single cloud. A focus on open source, data liberation, and workload portability helps mitigate the risks here.

While most of the conversation was technical, it delved into philosophy somewhat. These tensions can be between the individual (customization, convenience, and sovereignty) and the collective (maximized utility for the group, climate change, and shared efficiency.) We also touched on the role of governments in regulating these tradeoffs with policies and incentives, and in adopting new platforms for digital transformation.