Google’s internal conflict with its AI team continues. The company has been criticized for the way it handled the withdrawal of two of its top AI researchers, Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell. After dismissing an article that Gebru co-wrote criticizing some of the AI that Google uses in its best Android phones, the company reportedly fired her and then months later Mitchell who actively supported Gebru. It looks like Google is losing another of its AI researchers, and that could signal a massive business exodus.
According to Bloomberg, Samy Bengio, who has worked at Google since 2007, has just submitted his resignation from the company. Bengio has overseen the AI ethics team and hundreds of AI researchers under Google Brain, at least until recently. Following the controversy over the dismissal of Timni Gebru and later Margaret Mitchell, Google restructured its AI team under the leadership of Marian Croak, which reduced Bengio’s responsibilities within the team.
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Bengio wrote in an email that he was looking forward to his next opportunity:
Although I am looking forward to my next challenge, there is no doubt that leaving this wonderful team is really difficult… I have learned a lot from all of you, in terms of research on machine learning of course, but also on difficulty but also the importance it is a question of organizing a large team of researchers in order to promote an ambitious long-term research, exploration, rigor, diversity and inclusion.
Bengio supported Gebru and Mitchell in their fight against Google and expressed his support after Gebru’s dismissal. He’s not the first to leave the company after the aftermath, and Mitchell noted on Twitter that his departure likely wouldn’t be the last, as recent Google decisions have led team members to seek employment. elsewhere:
Resignations are coming in now because people started interviewing us shortly after we were fired. There is a lot of interest outside of Google in responsible / ethical AI. So the people we have worked with have many options. The job postings are just starting now; more resignations are likely. 😔
– MMitchell (@mmitchell_ai) April 6, 2021
Google has previously said it plans to create a more inclusive work environment for its employees. Unfortunately, these changes are too little too late and have come to the detriment of two respected AI researchers. This highlights one of the main reasons why Alphabet’s new workers’ union is so important, because obviously the company cannot make meaningful changes on its own. Google may think it solved its problems following the controversy surrounding Gebru’s departure, but it looks like its problems are just beginning.
Bengio’s last day will be April 28.
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