It's Not About Ethics In AI

Google has canned one of its top AI researchers months after the contentious departure of one of her colleagues.

What Happened?

  • Dr. Timnit Gebru, a leading AI researcher at Google, left the company in early December. Google says she resigned, while Dr. Gebru says she was fired.
  • The split up was sparked by the tech giant demanding Dr. Gebru and other authors remove their names from  an academic research paper submitted to a conference.
Dr. Gebru had also been critical of Google’s diversity practices, and many critics are viewing the departure as a result of sexism and descrimination.

What Happened Next?

  • The researcher’s exit sparked outrage, leading thousands of people, including Google employees, to sign an open letter in protest.
  • Co-founder and leader of Google’s AI ethics department Margaret Mitchell was fired on Friday after publishing a letter criticizing Google for their treatment of Dr. Gebru.
  • Axios reports that Mitchell had been using scripts to look through internal messages to find examples of discriminatory treatment of Dr. Gebru.
And now...On Friday, the same day of the firing of the second AI researcher, Google pledged to change their diversity policies going forward.

While We’re Here

Google’s program for Black college students is being criticized by former participants for failing them on a number of fronts.

  • The program was designed to prepare more students for a career in tech by offering computer science classes at Google’s Mountain View campus.
  • Students reported culture clashes and microaggressions from Google employees.
  • Participants say the program did not act effectively as a “pipeline” to Google, as it was described by the company.
Only 3.7% of Google’s US employees are Black, compared to 13.7% of the US population.