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Kim Jong-un's Reign; Ice Shelf Collapsing?; Interview With Former CDC Director Thomas Frieden; Interview With "The Great Successor" Author Anna Fifield; Interview With Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (DAIR) Founder Timnit Gebru. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 16, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
CHRIS WHITTY, CHIEF BRITISH MEDICAL OFFICER: This is a really serious threat at the moment. How big a threat, there are several things we don't
know. But all the things that we do know are bad.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): The latest on coronavirus and the Omicron variant. What you need to know with former CDC head Dr. Thomas Frieden and the
editor of "The Lancet," Dr. Richard Horton.
Then: a red alert for the human race. Why this crucial ice shelf could be collapsing and why it matters.
Also ahead, 10 years since Kim Jong-un took control of North Korea, how his leadership has transformed the secretive state.
TIMNIT GEBRU, FOUNDER, DISTRIBUTED A.I. RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Shouldn't we say, how can we make the livelihoods of our people better? How can we work
on technology that does that?
The ethics of A.I. Dr. Timnit Gebru tells Hari Sreenivasan how artificial intelligence could reinforce inequality.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back tomorrow.
Spurred on by the Omicron variant, the coronavirus pandemic is now entering a new phase. Countries like the U.K., Denmark and South Korea are seeing
case number soaring to new heights. And in the U.S., a surge of COVID Delta variant is hitting just as flu season returns.
And there are fears that an Omicron surge could be on the horizon. Now, the details on this new variant are still thin on the ground. So far, we know
that it's incredibly transmissible, but that it might also be a milder form of the disease.
Joining me now on the latest is former head of the CDC Dr. Tom Frieden and Dr. Richard Horton, the editor in chief of the medical journal "The
Welcome, both of you.
Dr. Horton, let me begin with you, because I believe it's been about three weeks now since the Omicron variant has officially been identified as a
variant of concern by the World Health Organization. And we have learned a lot more about it. And just seeing numbers out of the U.K., for example,
it's quite startling.
It's seeing its second highest record of infections with over 88,000 new cases. That's a 31 percent increase over the last week alone. What do we
know about Omicron at this point, and how it has taken over, at least from the data we have seen early on, the Delta variant in some places?
DR. RICHARD HORTON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE LANCET": Well, thanks, Bianna.
Yes, I mean, we are over five million deaths into this pandemic, and yet we now seem to be, at least in the United Kingdom, at the worst moment. What
we know about Omicron is that it multiplies 70 times faster than Delta in the lung -- in lung tissue, that the number of cases, as you rightly point
out, are increasing rapidly and exponentially to replace Delta, which has been the dominant form of infection so far.
It's predicted that over the next month, we could have our National Health Service completely overwhelmed by this virus. We're also, unfortunately,
although we're putting a lot of investments in the booster program, the fact is that London is the epicenter of Omicron.
And yet a third of the population have still not had any dose of vaccine at all. So we have a very, very vulnerable and susceptible population still.
We're not putting a great emphasis on reducing social mixing, as I think we should.
And what we're now seeing as of yesterday is something of a fracture between the advice being given by medical and scientific advisers and the
politicians, who are understandably trying to protect the economy, but are giving somewhat mixed signals about how the public should react.
So we're living in a very challenging time, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and I do want to play sound of what you just reference from Professor Chris Whitty, the -- England's chief medical officer, and compare
that to what Boris Johnson said at the same presser.
Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITTY: I really think people should be prioritizing those things and only those things that really matter to them, because, otherwise, the risk of
someone getting infected at something that doesn't really matter to them, and then not being able to do the things that do matter to them, obviously
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We're not canceling events. We're not closing hospitality. We're not canceling people's parties or their
ability to mix.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: I mean, I guess as you mentioned, Dr. Horton, there are two different branches of priorities that the medical health officials are
solely focused on vs. the politicians, who have to grapple with the larger ramifications.
But given where we are now into this pandemic, nearly two years in, we do see that one follows the other. The economy cannot fully recover until the
pandemic is subdued.
So why do you think we continue to see this disconnect? And where can that lead the country?
HORTON: Well, you put your finger on it, absolutely, Bianna.
This isn't a choice between health or the economy. The two are intimately linked. But the fact is that, as we drive up the number of cases, we will
inevitably see an increase in the number of hospitalizations. Even though we do believe that this particular variant is slightly milder than Delta,
the sheer numbers of cases will drive up hospitalizations, and that will overwhelm the National Health Service.
And once you overwhelm the health system, then you're in a real national crisis. And that's what we're trying to prevent now. And boosters on their
own are not going to do it.
We do have to prioritize who it is we mix with. And I think Chris Whitty was absolutely right in the advice that he was giving. He's not saying
don't see people. He's not saying cancel the holiday period. He's saying choose who you see with great care.
GOLODRYGA: Dr. Frieden, I want to bring you in because, as we know, throughout this pandemic, what has transpired in the U.K. is sort of a
preview of what we can expect in the U.S. within a matter of weeks.
Here we are approaching the holiday season as well. Do you think that the U.S. government and the health infrastructure is better prepared for this
new surge? And where do you stand on how concerned you are about this variant, given that early indication appears to show that it is a bit of a
milder form than Delta?
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: It's shaping up to be a hard winter. We have got Delta already
surging around the country. We have got a flu season that's likely starting and Omicron, which will inevitably spread.
We have way too many people who haven't gotten their first dose of a COVID vaccine. And we have way too many people who haven't gotten boosted. What
we have to do is prioritize protecting both lives and livelihoods. And that means vaccinating, vaccinating, vaccinating. Everyone should get a full
series. That means masking up, because it's a very small price to pay to save someone's life and to allow our economy to get back and continue
moving by masking up.
And then, exactly as Richard and Chris Whitty were saying, you have to balance the risks and benefits. It's not a question of do nothing, stay at
home. We're not going to see the kind of widespread closures that we saw before. But it is a question of individual risk and benefit.
If something's really important to you, then you can do that, taking safety measures. In terms of the health care system, we are better prepared. We're
doing more telemedicine, by a huge increase. We know better how to position patients, how to give treatment. We have new treatments on the way.
But it is shaping to be a hard winter. And we would be foolish if we just hoped for a milder Omicron and didn't prepare for the kind of onslaught
that may well be coming.
GOLODRYGA: And you and all medical professionals and I would say most politicians have been focused solely on vaccines. That has been the top
priority and getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Dr. Frieden, what do we know thus far with the efficacy of the major vaccines that we have seen in Western countries in battling Omicron?
FRIEDEN: We're learning more by the day.
But it's clear that Omicron can escape the immunity from any of our vaccines when it comes to infection. When it comes to severe illness, the
jury is still out. It looks like the mRNA vaccines retain some protective efficacy. And a booster really boosts that immunity back up to a strong
level of protection, at least for a few months.
It doesn't seem to be long-lasting. The big questions are, how well does that immunity work and how severe is the Omicron variant? It's still too
early to say for sure. We can hope that it's a lot less severe, but we don't know that. It's too soon to say.
GOLODRYGA: So, Dr. Horton, are we in a place now? Because, just anecdotally -- and I'm sure you have heard as well -- we have heard of many
And the first question over the last few weeks has been, OK, has this been a breakthrough case for somebody that's received two shots or has been
boosted? And, as of today, I have heard quite a few examples of people who've received their booster that did test positive. Now, these were mild
symptoms, very cold-like symptoms.
But that being said, they are still forced to isolate for many days. I mean, do you see this coming to a point where we as a society just need to
expect, as we're still attempting to avoid getting sick, and, if so, should we change some of the protocols surrounding that, maybe not 10 days at
home, but a couple of days?
HORTON: Well, Bianna, I think the critical point to realize here is that this pandemic is in transition.
This isn't a stable moment. It's not a fixed point in time. It is evolving. The virus is evolving. And we're trying to keep up with it and now get
ahead of it. We understand that two doses of the vaccine is not enough. We need to think about this as a three-dose schedule for the vaccine to boost
our immunity to give us protection.
If we can get the majority of the population protected through three doses, then this is a seasonal coronavirus. As we come into the spring and the
summer next year, that will reduce the risk. It will reduce the spread of the virus. And then we need to pause and think a little bit about how this
virus is going to evolve.
If we look at other seasonal coronaviruses, they have evolved over time to give mild illnesses, coughs and colds. And it's quite possible that this
coronavirus could evolve in the next year or two into -- in a similar way. We don't know yet.
But that's the glimmer of optimism that I'm holding in my hands right now. But, remember, this is a pandemic that's changing almost week by week.
GOLODRYGA: Listen, I will take a speck, a glimmer, however you want to describe it, of optimism at this point.
But to get there, Dr. Frieden, I am sure you have heard many question now whether we should be instituting or reinstituting travel restrictions over
the next few weeks before the U.S. is blanketed with Omicron cases, questions about children returning to school. Should we expect to see more
school closures? We're seeing some universities doing just that now.
Are these the appropriate questions and steps to be taken at this point?
FRIEDEN: Yes, and I think it's really important that we understand that the world is interconnected, whether we like it or not.
Travel restrictions can delay by a few days, at most, maybe a week or two, the entry of the virus. It's time for the U.S. to lift those on the African
countries that it's imposed them on. They're not rational at this point, and they're inappropriate.
At the same time, we need to keep schools open. And, most importantly, we need to learn the lesson of COVID. If you think about what COVID does, it
mutates or innovates. And that innovation spreads all over the world. We need to learn the best practices and spread those all over the world. And
that means vaccination and strengthening our systems to find, stop and prevent new variants or new organisms when and where they emerge.
This is the most teachable moment there will be in our lifetimes to strengthen the ability of the world to identify problems wherever they
emerge, and stop them there to save lives everywhere.
GOLODRYGA: Am I right -- and both doctors can weigh in -- let me begin with you, Dr. Horton -- to assume that we can't breathe a sigh of relief, even
if this is, in fact, a more milder variant, if we don't see more vaccinations around the world, in Africa and other developing countries?
Because it appears that the opportunity for future variants are still there, no?
HORTON: No, absolutely right.
And I just want to endorse what Tom said 100 percent. It wasn't an accident that we saw variants appearing on the Indian subcontinent, in South Africa
and in Brazil, and now again in South Africa. The reason why we're seeing those variants appear is because they're in areas of intense transmission
of the virus.
And so if we're going to reduce the risk of new and dangerous variants arising, we need to vaccinate the entire population of the planet. So,
while we're focusing on trying to get third doses and boosters into our own population, that is ultimately going to prove a false dawn if we don't also
vaccinate the rest of the world.
And, unfortunately, our political leaders have been far too myopic in their approach to that question.
GOLODRYGA: Dr. Frieden, what is it going to take for the alarm bells to go off, that we will continue sort of playing a game of Whac-A-Mole until we
get more of the world vaccinated?
FRIEDEN: Today, my group, Resolve to Save Lives, released a report based on thousands of surveys in 20 countries in Africa. We find a very high
acceptance of vaccines, close to 80 percent, yet very low actually vaccination, less than 10 percent.
It's not enough just to dump that vaccines, although we need to provide a regular supply. We also have to support vaccination programs around the
world. That includes information, planning, all the things that are needed to get vaccines into arms.
And in the longer term, we need to develop manufacturing capacity in Africa and around the world with platform technologies that can adapt to new
variants or new organisms. We're in it together against the microbes. The more we collaborate, the more we work together as a world, the safer and
more productive our future will be.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, you're right. We are in it together. And we turn to experts like you not only for your expertise, obviously, but for guidance.
And I'm just curious, as we close this segment, what, if any, changes have you made to your holiday plans in light of what we have learned over the
past three weeks?
I'm going to begin with you, Dr. Horton.
HORTON: Well, I was hoping to spend a few days in Paris at some point over, if not the holiday, then in January, but I'm afraid that's not going to
The borders between the United Kingdom and France were closed yesterday. And I think it's safer just to stay at home, be with family and enjoy
Christmas in a quiet and safe way. That's my plan for the next few weeks.
GOLODRYGA: Dr. Frieden?
FRIEDEN: Making sure everyone gets boosted, wearing masks whenever we're not eating, and limiting the number of people who come together from
different places, because, fundamentally, the more people mix, the more you can have spread.
But the things that are important to you, the things that are important to me and my family, we're continuing.
GOLODRYGA: Sound advice.
And perhaps, if we continue to move in a positive direction, we can all meet in Paris next year. There's always then, right?
Doctor, thank you so much. We appreciate the segment and for you taking the time to come on.
HORTON: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we turn next to the climate.
From the fatal tornadoes in Kentucky to super typhoons in the Philippines, extreme weather is taking hold from pole to pole, literally, the United
Nations confirming a record high Arctic temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit in June of 2020, while, on the other side of the planet, in
Antarctica, there are fears that a melting ice shelf could release the so- called doomsday glacier.
The science shows us that climate change is making events like these more frequent and more severe.
Joining me now with the facts behind some of the scary rhetoric is NASA's first ever senior climate adviser, Gavin Schmidt.
Gavin, great to have you on.
So if you can just give our viewers a sense of the implications of the two crises that we're seeing on both poles right now, what does it mean, and
which, if any, is more alarming, in your opinion?
GAVIN SCHMIDT, ACTING NASA SENIOR ADVISER ON CLIMATE: Well, they're both alarming. But they're alarming in different ways.
In the Arctic, we're seeing the fastest rate of warming on the planet, roughly four times as warm as the rest of the planet is warming. And that
is pushing the records there, it's pushing the wildfires, it's pushing the sea ice loss. And those are having very important local effects for people
who are living there and the natural resources and ecosystems that exist there.
But then we're also seeing these larger-scale impacts on the ice sheets, which are small for the ice sheets, but big for us, because they're
affecting sea level. And so the latest story from the Thwaites Glacier, which is in West Antarctica, is that that, which has been -- it's been
receding quite dramatically in recent decades.
People are seeing now that the ice shelf -- that's the bit of the ice that's floating on the surface -- seems to be developing some major cracks,
and is likely to perhaps not collapse, but decrease quite dramatically in the next few years.
And that has implications for the ice that's coming down off the continent. And when those ice shelves go away, they disappear, then the amount of ice
that's coming in off the continent increases. And that's adding to the sea level.
And that glacier itself, the Thwaites Glacier, has enough ice to eventually raise sea levels just on its own by about two feet globally. And so that's
very worrisome. It isn't going to happen suddenly or overnight. But it is one of the signs that we're seeing that what we are doing to the climate is
having absolutely massive and important impacts.
GOLODRYGA: And does that answer the question as to why perhaps? Is it at least one of the factors that we are seeing such extreme weather in the
United States, as we mentioned, the typhoon in the Philippines? We had the massive flooding in Germany.
I mean, it seems every part of the globe has experienced some sort of unprecedented crisis, weather crisis or event are over the past few years.
Well, and you're absolutely right. I mean, in the last 10 years, the signal of shame human-caused climate change has started to appear much more
clearly in weather, in things like intense rainfalls, in heat waves, in fires. And now we're seeing a very clear attribution or contribution of
human changes to the impacts that we're seeing.
And so, as the temperature warms up in the oceans, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, we're seeing more water vapor in the atmosphere. That water
vapor, when it rains, is causing more and more intense rainfall.
And so when we're seeing weather systems collide, like we're seeing in the Midwest and the Southern United States this week, you have got a very cold
front with -- meeting very, very warm, wet -- and anomalously warm and wet air. And that's meeting at a sharp frontal area, which can give rise to
these tornadic outbursts.
GOLODRYGA: In terms of when things can change, when we can put a brake on global warming, you wrote: "At the point when emissions are net zero,
global warming will stop."
We are just coming off the COP 26 summit.
GOLODRYGA: If there's any positive takeaway is that at least we're talking about this subject matter. I mean, this is a very small advance that we
have made, but at least we're talking about it more as a nation, as a globe, right?
But are we anywhere closer to achieving what you say will at least put a stop to the continued warming of the planet?
SCHMIDT: So, nothing is going to happen until everybody is pushing in the right direction.
And what we saw at the COP 26 meeting was that all of the countries, with only a few exceptions, are really pushing in the right direction. We're
seeing, with the new administration, that they're pushing many, many different initiatives to get the federal government to be acting here.
We have already seen many, many states, many, many localities, many, many communities making the changes that they need to make and preparing for the
changes that we know will come. Those are -- the level at which we are now talking about this, are aware of the problem and are seeing the impacts, I
think, has led to a much greater inclination of everybody to act to reduce the harms going forward.
And the key thing to remember from the science is that the warming that we have to come is really a function of the things that we're going to emit
from now on, right? So we can't change anything that's happened in the past. But the continued warming really is a function of how much stuff we
continue to put into the atmosphere.
And so, if we stop doing that, then the warming will stop.
GOLODRYGA: And the science at this point is clear. Anyone who denies that is just not a serious person.
But there are some who are skeptical. And I would say you happen to be one of them of some of the climate models that are used to forecast the
changes. And you say that they don't take people's future action into account. What does that mean? Explain to our viewers.
SCHMIDT: Well, so, people that are running climate models, which includes a team that I run here in New York, we aren't -- we're not seers. We're not
And so when we're looking out to the future, we don't know exactly what people are going to do.We don't know exactly what technologies are going to
be developed. And so what we do is, we run different scenarios, different plausible storylines for what might happen in a very, very optimistic way
or in a quite pessimistic way.
And we're hoping, really, that the real world falls between those two endpoints, and, hopefully, lower down is better. But we don't know what
people are going to do. And so the biggest uncertainty for the climate in the future is not our understanding of the physics. But it's what we are
going to put into the atmosphere.
It's how much fossil fuel we're going to burn. That's the biggest uncertainty. And that's the one that we can control as a society.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, we control what we emit, and also the role that science and technology plays in all of this too.
You are a big proponent of nuclear energy, something that has sort of been taboo for many decades now, though I think some countries are opening up to
that, and the carbon capture storage, that I guess the question remains as to whether that can be built to scale, right?
GOLODRYGA: Are any of these areas, in your view, more of a gateway to getting us out of the trouble we're in now?
SCHMIDT: Oh, well, I think actually, renewables are the biggest thing.
The cost of renewables have gone way, way down over the last few years. We're talking perhaps 95 percent cheaper than they were 10 years ago.
They're now cost-competitive in many, many locations and localities, building out the grid to allow for high-value -- high levels of renewables,
making the connections, putting in the battery storage and the technology that's needed for that, and not closing functioning nuclear power plants, I
think, is quite a good plan.
But there are other issues as well. We can be pushing a lot harder on efficiency. We can be putting a lot more effort into geothermal and heat
pumps for buildings and houses.
And we can electrify our transportation and use less transportation by using more public transport, by biking a lot more. I cycled down here this
afternoon a very balmy and anomalously warm December day, and it's a great way to get around the city. You don't need to use fossil fuels. So, we can
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and many cities are making it easier to not have to rely solely on cars for transportation.
But you sort of set a new bar in terms of transportation. It's not that you just use bicycles. But I read that you are a unicycle hockey pro.
GOLODRYGA: I don't even know what that looks like. I wish we could have an image of you doing that, because I also hear on top of that you juggle.
GOLODRYGA: So one of the questions I had planned to ask you was how you stay optimistic, but I feel that perhaps you answering this question, what
is the unicycle hockey, juggling part of your life, and explain how you can manage to do both, saving the planet and having this extracurricular
SCHMIDT: Well, you have to keep a lot of balls in the air.
GOLODRYGA: OK, we will leave it there. I guess I set that one up for you beautifully.
Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
SCHMIDT: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Take care.
Well, now we turn to North Korea, where Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un is celebrating 10 years since he took control. When he first ascended to
power, there were the hopes that the Western-educated Kim could lead the secretive state in a new direction. But since then, he's brutally purged
members of his own family, stepped up the country's surveillance of its people, and built up its nuclear arsenal.
So what could the next 10 years look like?
Joining me now on this is Anna Fifield, formerly the Beijing bureau chief for "The Washington Post." Her book "The Great Successor" follows the rise
of Kim Jong-un.
Anna, great to have you on. It's hard to believe that it's already been 10 years. And you -- I recommend your book to anybody who wants to read more
about the man and the country. It's a fascinating look at him. So, congratulations on that.
What -- you take away one of the focus points in the book is that his main priority, Kim Jong-un, is just about staying in power, surviving. And
grasping that gives readers and people a better sense of the direction he's going to take the country in and where he's taken the country thus far.
Talk more about that.
ANNA FIFIELD, AUTHOR, "THE GREAT SUCCESSOR": Yes, thank you, Bianna.
And, yes, it's really hard to believe that it has been 10 years. I think, when Kim Jong Il died 10 years ago, there was a lot of skepticism about
whether his third son, Kim Jong-un, could take over, could keep this anachronistic regime together.
I also was doubtful. That's part of the reason I wrote this book, because I wanted to figure out how he had managed to do it. But he has managed to do
it by keeping a very strong grip on the regime, by being a brutal dictator and keeping everybody in fear of their lives from the top to the bottom,
but also by promising to preside over a better life for North Koreans.
It was very early on that he said North Koreans would never have to tighten their belts again. So he has enabled more private enterprise, a little more
economic freedom. And there has been a very slight increase in living standards for the general populace in North Korea, although the elites who
keep him in power have become very rich and corrupt under him.
And I think that's a big part of the reason why he's able to celebrate this 10-year anniversary.
GOLODRYGA: So, again, the country -- and we're setting the bar very low -- the country that he inherited had been on the brink of collapse and mass
starvation for its millions of citizens.
He promised them, as you mentioned, no more tightening of your belts. Obviously, then that opened doors to other endeavors that he took on,
introducing capitalism, controlled capitalism, at that, but really focusing on his nuclear arsenal, right, and weapons system.
And the first few years, we did see more advancement, more rockets launched, constantly a threat to the West, not only a thorn in China's
side, but the United States as well. And I want to take our viewers back to when President Biden -- I mean, President Obama was talking to newly
elected President Trump and said to him that this is going to be the one issue that keeps you up at night.
Here we are several later and that does not seem to be. We have a pandemic that we're into right now and tightened, you know, relations with China,
but North Korea doesn't seem to be front and center. What does that tell you?
FIFIELD: Yes. I think it was definitely true in 2016. Kim Jong-un had shown he was really focused on his nuclear and missile program and he did make
astonishing gains over those few years (INAUDIBLE) what very much appears as the hydrogen bomb and launching a lot of intercontinental ballistic
missiles able to reach anywhere in the United States.
And he did that partly for his own domestic reasons to be able to show people at home that he was powerful and get the attention of the world.
But, also, to get Trump's eyeballs on him and to get some attention, to get some of the sanction relief, economic aids that might come with that.
So, Kim Jong-un was very tactical in the way that he approached this job to, yes, strike fear into the hearts of people but also, to gain respect
for this nuclear program. And I think that's something that quite often underestimated at home, just how kind of domestically popular this is and
how proud ordinary North would feel about this nuclear program.
But, you know, fast-forward five years, it's a very, very different situation. And I think that, you know, North Korea, the borders have been
closed since the beginning of last year, almost two years now, and this has got to be causing much, much more stress inside North Korea than American
sanctions ever did, because North Korea is very reliant on China for its economic aid, for trade, that was really its lifeline and that has been
closed off almost two years.
So, there are signs that Kim Jong-un is quite a difficult situation now. He has talked repeatedly about the profit of another famine returning to North
Korea and there are clearly food shortages happening inside there.
GOLODRYGA: This comes after the country months into the pandemic was denying there were any cases. Clearly, that was hard to believe. But what
insights do you have into how the country is fairing in battling COVID right now?
FIFIELD: Yes. It's extremely difficult to know. You know, usually, you know, it's (INAUDIBLE) but usually, there is a fair a bit of back and forth
whether it's diplomats or aid workers or North Korean traders who crossed into China on a daily basis to do their private enterprise. So, they were
all sources of information about what was happening, that's all dried up since the border was closed in January last year.
But what Kim Jong-un has said publicly about the difficulties that North Korea is facing do suggest that the situation is challenging for him, that
the economy is facing stresses that it hasn't any other time in his 10 years in power. So, we have reasons to believe that Kim Jong-un is facing
an enormous amount of stress generally at the moment as a result of COVID- related closures rather than American-led sanctions.
GOLODRYGA: What do you make of the news earlier this week that there are possible talks of an official into the war an agreement with South Korea?
Do you read much into that? Obviously, you know, the South Koreans and President Moon had to walk away from the table because, obviously, there
was a U.S. component that the U.S. did not it agree to the demands asked from North Korea.
But the fact that that's even being engaged right now, does that tell you that he's approaching this from a place of weakness perhaps, Kim Jong-un,
FIFIELD: I mean, this is something that the North Koreans have always wanted and (INAUDIBLE) end the Korean war. And that's based on the fact
that would mean the U.S. troops would have to leave South Korea. They have been there for almost 17 years as the result of this (INAUDIBLE) that was
struck in 1953.
So, Kim Jong-un says he wants this, South Korea often says they want it. Obviously, that's unpalatable to the United States to withdraw its military
presence from South Korea, but I think that that would actually be quite difficult for Kim Jong-un because the North Korean state is founded on
opposition to the United States.
It exists in a state of war today, and that is one that the North Korean regime had stoked for decades to create this kind of external threat. And
that is how part of the way that Kim Jong-un managed to keep North Korea intact by saying, you know, I am here to protect you from the evil American
imperialists who want to come and attack us again.
So, a peace treaty, while North Korea says they want that, would be very complicated for them because it would take away that key part of their
GOLODRYGA: Few people know the subject matter and Kim Jong-un, I would argue, better than you. You spent a long time researching him. And as you
said along with other experts that the past 10 years have surprised them.
What do you see ahead for the country and its leadership? It wasn't too long ago that there were concerns a about his health, right, and what would
happen? Would one of his children, who were too young, take over? Would it be his sister? He seems to have regained some of his strength. But what do
we know about his stability right now?
FIFIELD: Yes. It's a really tricky question and I started off by saying, I wrote a book because I was wrong, because I do think Kim Jong-un could stay
in power. So, I think he's showing us that we would be underestimating him if we were to write it off and to say this challenge at the moment is the
one that will come out from the leadership of North Korea.
But it is -- I mean, I do find it difficult to see how the regime can continue for decades to come because it is based on lies that North Koreas
ow increasingly know about, almost every North Korean defector that I've spoken to knows that the North Korean propaganda is complete rubbish, that
the -- you know, it's based on nothing.
But for now, they've been able to keep it together because they had the support of China. And I think that is unlikely to change because it's in
China's interest to have North Korea stable and quiet on its border there. So, the current situation is probably quite pleasing to China, this is
exactly how they want North Korea to be. They want them to ignore them.
But if something were to happen to Kim Jong-un, I don't think we could anticipate a catastrophic collapse of North Korea. He's clearly been
engineering for his sister to step in to his shoes. I think that would be a hard ask and confusion hieratical fixes to North Korea.
FIFIELD: But he's obviously been peppering here. But I think it's much more likely that the carry (ph) would take over, that there would be a hunter-
like destruction in North Korea and that China would act to prop that up and make sure that North Korea remains intact.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Any instability would be worrisome in that region and, obviously, would be, once again, a top priority for a U.S. administration
Anna Fifield, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Well, our next guest is one of the most prominent black women working in artificial intelligence today. Timnit Gebru was a leader of Google's
ethical AI team who says she was fired after speaking out about how some AI systems are reenforcing social inequalities. Google however says that she
Now, she's tackling the problem head on as she's been explaining to Hari Sreenivasan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Bianna. Dr. Timnit Gebru, thanks for joining us.
First, tell us a little bit about the new institute that you just formed. What does it study?
TIMNIT GEBRU, FOUNDER, DISTRIBUTED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE RESEARCH INSTITUTE (DAIR): I formed a new institute that's called Distributed
Artificial Intelligence Research Institute or DAIR, that the acronym. And I'm hoping for it to be a positive model for doing research in artificial
intelligence in general.
So, that means not just critiquing AI systems after they have been built, but also a positive model of how to do research in artificial intelligence
that centers the voices of members of marginalized communities who are currently mostly harmed by the technology and not benefitting from it.
SREENIVASAN: So, explain that. Does artificial intelligence weigh differently on different communities?
GEBRU: I think that artificial intelligence systems affect different communities differently. So, for instance, some people talk about dataset
bias. So, the -- some of the ways in which AI systems are currently trained are using lots and lots of data to make inferences about things, whether
it's people or other things. And if that is bias, then your inferences are going to be biased.
I can give you a couple examples of that. For instance, there is an application called predictive policing that actually, the LAPD used to use,
something called Pred-Pol, and this application is supposed to tell you crime hot spots before they occur. And so, now, imagine -- and then, they
send more police to those hot spots.
So, now, imagine what kind of data they are using. They are using data to train their algorithm on who was arrested for a particular crime, not who
caused the particular crime, but who was arrested for a particular crime. And knowing the kinds of issues the U.S. has with biased policing, that's
going to disproportionately target black and brown communities, right?
So, now, you send more police to these neighborhoods and then you arrest more people because you've sent more police and you sent -- you arrest more
people and you think that your algorithm is actually telling you something accurate. And so, it kind of increases the societal issues we already have.
So, that's one example.
But the issues not just about a biased data set, right? So, in my view, whether or not the data set is biased, I don't think we should have things
like predictive policing or other surveillance methodologies like face recognition and face surveillances and other issue where people talk about
its impact on people of darker skin because we have shown that the error rates on people of darker skin are much higher, especially darker skin
But it doesn't mean even if this technology were, you know, perfectly well and was able to surveil everybody equally that it would still be something
that we want to use because certain communities are much more surveilled than others, and those communities are going to be negatively impacted.
SREENIVASAN: So, backing up just a step. You're trying to train a computer to think by giving maybe examples of what's good and what's bad and then
kind of unleashing it on a whole pile of things. So, I guess, you know, that initial bias of datasets that you're talking about, it seems that
whatever biases I might have in determining originally what's good and what's bad, I'm basically just mapping that directly on to the machine and
it's going to be able to amplify that.
GEBRU: So, I think there's disagreements between various communities about what people should try to achieve. So, for instance, there is something
that people talk about called Artificial General Intelligence, AGI.
And for some people in AI, this is the holy grail. That's where they want to achieve this one super intelligent being. It seems kind of like a God to
me, and I don't agree with that. I think that even nature is much smarter, right? You don't have one human that does everything. You have many
different kinds of humans, right?
So, I don't believe that we should try to create a machine that thinks and then can do good and bad. I think that we should try to create machines
that can help us with various tasks, but it can also be applied to things that we don't want it to be applied to, right?
So, one thing that I really don't agree with is the use of autonomous weapon weapons. And so, right now, AI is being developed by all sorts of
regimes and countries and actors to create autonomous weapons, right? Like you said, we can amplify some of the societal issues that we have with this
SREENIVASAN: The internet in some large part came about because there was an impetus from the Defense Department in the United States to try to
create a network that wouldn't fall down if we were attacked, right? Now, if government is one of those key drivers in how new technologies come to
market, I wonder the other side of the coin that you mentioned, big companies, if those are the only ones that have the deep enough pockets to
invest this this space, then aren't we essentially catering to their incentives?
Meaning, they are the ones that will decide what's good for, say, their bottom line or their shareholder value on what comes to market?
GEBRU: Absolutely. And that's -- so, when I talk about how we can reduce the harms of AI, I always point to antitrust measures and worker
protections as well. And people might not see the connection because if the majority of the AI being developed is by corporations and if workers inside
these companies can't point out the issues without being fired, like I was, then we're not going to see the harms right away, right?
People on the inside can warn us about these issues because they see what's going on in the inside, like, you know, the whistleblowers, Frances Haugen,
for example, in Facebook.
So, we need much harder, you know, tougher, much more whistleblower protection loss than we have right now. And we need to punish companies
when they go union busting and attack workers now. So, a lot of the big tech companies that are currently developing AI that they unleash and --
onto us without testing it properly are also engaged in, you know, antiworker organizing practices, right, and union busting practices.
And unless we, you know, take the curb, the power of the companies that produce these harmful products and increase the power of the people who
work against them and the public, we will never be able, in my view, to stop the harms of AI.
And on the other hand, it also means investing. So, investing in groups of people who are trying to have alternative futures and create technologies
that actually benefit them rather than the current two incentives that we have, which is defense, you know, or how to kill more people more
efficiently, or how to get more money as a corporation. So, I think we need an alternative. We need our government.
We know that our government can invest a lot of money in technology. The issue is when our government invests a lot of money in technology, the
impetus, as you mentioned, is always something to do with defense. Shouldn't we have another impetus? Shouldn't we say, how can we make the
livelihoods of our people better? You know, how can we work on technology that does that? So, that's what I'm hoping to see.
ROKER: How much of your world view you think is shaped by the fact that you emigrated to the United States? You are (INAUDIBLE) who grew up in Ethiopia
and came here via Ireland. You know, and you have a different perspective than most of the engineers sitting -- or who used to the cubicles next to
GEBRU: Yes. I mean, I remember in graduate school, one guy said, oh, it must be so great. You're black and you're a woman and, you know, you just
get all this free stuff, you know. And I'm like, OK. That's one way to think about it, right? That is how people when I -- in these positions,
like I said, at engineering, et cetera, that's how -- that's what they would say to me, right? Like it was like winning a lottery for them that,
you know, I check all those boxes.
But I try to tell him to try, you know, being a refugee at 15 and, you know, leave your country because of war. And so, when I look at my
colleagues and their points of view about our societies, it's very different from mine. And that point of view is what is imbued in
So, for instance, when I found out that in 2016 there was a ProPublica article that talked it about a startup that was selling software that --
purporting to determine someone's likelihood of committing a crime again. And this software was being used as input by judges for either to set bail
or sentencing or whatever.
And the moment I heard about that, I was panicking because I have had experiences, negative experiences with police, but I have also had
experiences with the people who would develop such type of technology, right, my colleagues, my lab mates and other students, right, and what
their views are. So, I could see both of those things. And that's sort of one of the reasons that I wanted to make sure that I worked on minimizing
the impacts, the negative potential impacts of artificial intelligence.
SREENIVASAN: You know, one of the reasons that you started this institute, and frankly, one of the reasons that you are as widely known a name now as
-- is because of what happened with your time at Google. And right off the bat, there's even a core disagreement in how they see your departure,
versus how you see it. They say they accepted your resignation, and you say you were fired. What happened?
GEBRU: I was fired. So, what happened was that I -- so, I was at Google for two years and I was co-leading the Ethical AI team, it was a research team
that was founded by my co-lead, Meg Mitchell, who was also later fired when she spoke up against my firing.
So, we were a research team that were doing exactly sort of what my research institute hopes supposed to do, work on reducing the harms
artificial intelligence and working on AI systems that we think would benefit people. I believe and many of us believe that in order to create
beneficial AI, you need to have organizations that are not discriminatory, you know need to -- it starts from there. It starts from those values.
And at Google, I faced a lot of discrimination and I faced a lot of hostility. And so, I spoke up about that a lot, about the harassment that
women would face, about what we deal with as black people, et cetera. And so, because of that, there was always a lot of friction. I -- we used to
joke that there's probably like one of those detective, you know, white board things that HR has and my face is on it, you know, somehow.
And so, what happened to me -- what I'm trying to say is what I'm happened to me didn't come out of the blue. So, I had that. And then, finally, the
nail in the coffin was that I wrote a paper, just doing my job, that was trying to warn people about the dangers of what we called large language
models. And people at Google, after my paper went through the internal processes just fine, asked me to either retract the paper or take the names
of the Google authors off the scientific paper.
And I said that I would agree to take the names of the Google authors off the paper if we have a conversation about why and how this decision was
made, how -- what process we're going to have in the future, because as a researcher, I can't just work at a place where you can randomly tell me to
retract a paper that, you know, compromises my integrity as a researcher. And they said, oh, no, we can't do that. And we accept your resignation as
And I found out from my direct report that I had apparently resigned, because my manager didn't know either. That's not how you resign at Google.
There is a whole paperwork and a whole process you go through to resign. So, that's what happened. And I think that my guess is that they thought I
would be quiet about it and I would just say, oh, guess I resigned and leave, you know. But that was not me. So --
SREENIVASAN: You know, not many employees after they resign cause such a fear -- the CEO. I just want to read Sundar Pichai's statement in an e-mail
out of staff saying in part, I've heard the reaction to Dr. Gebru's departure loud and clear. It seeded doubts and led some in our community to
question their place at Google. I want to say how sorry I am for that and I accept the responsibility of working to restore your trust. Do you believe
GEBRU: No. It was like, I'm sorry you feel that way. This came after the uproar, right? It didn't -- after I got fired, they were hoping to keep
everything quiet, but I wasn't quiet. And a number of people came -- you know, they did so many -- so much organizing on my behalf, former and
current Google employees and many others.
And so, when -- and they kept on doubling down. The first reaction was a very different reaction. A senior VP of research, Jeff Dean, wrote an e-
mail to the research community which he later made public, first, attacking my work, saying it was subpar. Then saying that I told people to stop
working on diversity, which you know, I don't think anybody would believe that because I spent so much time working on diversity.
And then, talking -- say -- misrepresenting how I approached the whole situation, saying I tried to dock (ph) people in the review system almost,
and that created a lot of harassment for me. That sort of summoned a bunch of white supremacists in the dark -- from the dark web who are doing a lot
of coordinated attacks against me.
SREENIVASAN: Why is it that even at this stage of the tech industry that there are still so many people of color who do not feel like, not just that
it is not a welcoming environment, that it is an actively hostile one?
GEBRU: I think that even though we talk about all the progress that's been made in civil rights, we're still living in a white supremacist society.
And inherently, if you don't pay attention and you don't intentionally do things differently, that's what's going to happen. That's the default. It's
a patriarchal white supremacist society.
So, the default, if you don't act differently is going to be that. So, you're going to experience a lot of sexism. And when you talk about
harassment or -- then you'll have retaliation. And the same with racism. And so, that's, for me, why I don't think that we should expect any of
these corporations to do things of their own good will. We have to have regulation that it forces them to do something differently.
And so, for me, that's why I focus, for example, on worker organizing because that is a different -- shifting of power, right, from these
multinational corporations to workers who at least can have a say. And this is really not a radical idea, right? I mean, workers should have some
amount of organizing power.
So, to me, in a nutshell, that's what it is. I mean, racism is -- exists and it is the default and if we don't intentionally do something about it,
that's what's going to come to the surface.
SREENIVASAN: Dr. Timnit Gebru, founder and executive director of the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute, thanks so much for
GEBRU: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And we should note we reached out to Google for a comment on the circumstances of Gebru's departure and criticism of their leadership. They
declined to comment on that. Instead, pointing us to their recent work and what they called responsible AI.
Well, that is it for tonight. Thank you so much for watching and good-bye from New York.