James Manyika now in charge of finding out tech’s impact on society for Google (pic: Getty/NYT)
Google has appointed Zimbabwean-American James Manyika, the head of McKinsey Global Institute, to be the company’s first Senior VP of Technology and Society.
The position will report to Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai and focus on how tech affects society.
“I’m thrilled that James Manyika will be joining Google’s leadership team,” Pichai said in a statement. “He’s spent decades working at the intersection of technology and society and has advised a number of businesses, academic institutions and governments along the way.”
A Google spokesperson said Manyika’s role works on “shaping and sharing” the company’s view on the way tech affects society, the economy and the planet. His areas of focus include the future of work, sustainability, and the impact of AI.
Big Tech has long faced accusations that it’s a detriment to society, and Google thinks it can address those criticisms more directly. Manyika will help explore tech’s impact on society and shape the firm’s points of view on subjects including AI, the future of work, sustainability and other areas that could make a significant difference.
Manyika has spent 28 years at McKinsey, which helps companies and governments (including tech leaders) make decisions based on economic and cultural trends like those Google hopes to address. He also serves on the boards of research institutes at Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Stanford and other top-tier schools. If anyone is likely to be aware of tech’s broader effects on the world, it’s him.
Google’s move certainly isn’t surprising. It comes as the company is facing a host of antitrust lawsuits, increasingly tougher regulations and protests over its treatment of employees. There are also claims Google and Big Tech haven’t done enough to fight misinformation and are eroding privacy. The new executive won’t necessarily adjust all of Google’s behavior, but he could provide a more informed perspective that reduces the chances of a cultural or political backlash.