FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of Google logo in this illustration picture, April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

A top Google scientist believes she was fired after criticizing the company’s diversity efforts. Her comments followed the company’s decision not to publish her ethics research paper on artificial intelligence. 

Timnit Gebru, who worked on Google’s AI team, stated that she had been fired after sending an email expressing that she was frustrated with a lack of gender diversity within her team and questioned whether her being a Black woman made her subject to more stringent review. 

 The paper Gebru authored discussed the dangers of using large language models to train artificial intelligence algorithms because the technology would only be able to analyze language currently on the internet, which she believes would be infected by the bias of those involved in the research.  

Gebru also sent an email to an internal group called Google Brain Women and Allies that stated, “We just had a Black research all hands with such an emotional show of exasperation,” adding “Do you know what happened since? Silencing in the most fundamental way possible.”

Head of Google AI Jeff Dean denies bias on Google’s AI team, stating that Gebru’s research was not published because it “didn’t meet our bar for publication” and that it “ignored too much relevant research.” Dean also stated that Gebru wanted several demands met for her to continue working at Google, including revealing the identities and exact feedback of everyone who reviewed her research. “Timnit wrote that if we didn’t meet these demands, she would leave Google and work on an end date. We accept and respect her decision to resign from Google,” Dean stated. Gebru maintains that she did not resign and that she was fired.

Google Walkout For Real Change released a petition on Medium in support of Gebru, which has now been signed by “794 Googlers employees and 1136 academic, industry, and civil society supporters.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Google’s star AI ethics researcher, one of a few Black women in the field, says she was fired for a critical email – Washington Post – 12/3/2020
Timnit Gebru said in a series of tweets Wednesday night that she was fired from her post as the co-leader of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team, where she had spearheaded research that helped elevate the company’s status as a leader in assessing the technology’s fairness and risks.

What one of Google’s top AI ethics researchers had to say before the company pushed her out – Fast Company – 12/4/2020
Computer scientist Timnit Gebru was abruptly fired from Google’s Ethical AI lab. Here are a few highlights from her session at the Fast Company Innovation Festival just a few months ago.

Google fires prominent AI ethicist Timnit Gebru – The Verge – 12/3/2020
Gebru is famous for her work on algorithmic bias, particularly in facial recognition technology. In 2018, she co-authored a paper with Joy Buolamwini showing error rates for identifying darker-skinned people were far higher than the error rates for identifying white-skinned people, in part because the datasets used to train algorithms were overwhelmingly white.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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