Ex-Google AI manager heads to Apple after Timnit Gebru controversy
Update, May 4 (1:30 pm ET): Apple has snapped up the researcher for one of its AI research teams
What you need to know
- An AI manager at Google has just resigned from the company.
- The resignation comes after the company restructured its AI teams under a new lead.
- Samy Bengio was a supporter of Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell who were both dismissed from Google.
Google's internal conflict with its AI team continues. The company has been under fire for how it handled the removal of two of its top AI researchers, Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell. After dismissing a paper Gebru co-wrote criticizing some of the AI that Google uses throughout its best Android phones, the company allegedly fired her and then months later fired Mitchell who was actively supporting Gebru. It seems Google is losing another of its AI researchers, and it may signal a mass exodus from the company.
According to Bloomberg, Samy Bengio, who has been with Google since 2007, has just submitted his resignation from the company. Bengio oversaw the AI Ethics team and hundreds of AI researchers under Google Brain, at least until recently. Following the controversy of Timni Gebru's firing and later Margaret Mitchell, Google restructured its AI team under the leadership of Marian Croak, which cut Bengio's responsibilities on the team.
Bengio wrote in an email that he is looking forward to his next opportunity:
Bengio has supported both Gebru and Mitchell in their struggle against Google and has voiced his support following Gebru's dismissal. He is not the first to exit the company following the aftermath, and Mitchell noted on Twitter that his departure likely won't be the last, as Google's recent moves have led team members to seek employment elsewhere:
Resignations coming now bc people started interviewing soon after we were fired. There is keen interest in responsible/ethical AI outside of Google, so people we worked with have a lot of options. The job offers are just starting now; more resignations are likely. 😔Resignations coming now bc people started interviewing soon after we were fired. There is keen interest in responsible/ethical AI outside of Google, so people we worked with have a lot of options. The job offers are just starting now; more resignations are likely. 😔— MMitchell (@mmitchell_ai) April 6, 2021April 6, 2021
Google has previously stated that it plans to create a more inclusive work environment for its employees. Unfortunately, those changes are too little too late and came at the expense of two respected AI researchers. It highlights a big reason why the new Alphabet workers' union is so important, because obviously the company can't make meaningful changes on its own. Google may think it solved its problems following the controversy around Gebru's departure, but it seems like its problems are only beginning.
Bengio's last day will be April 28.
Update, May 02 (01:30 pm ET) — Apple is confirmed to have snapped up Bengio
A Reuters report in early May confirmed that Apple had hired the engineer. Bengio is expected to work in AI Research at Apple, and serve just under Giannandrea, senior vice president of machine learning and AI strategy. Neither Apple nor Bengio publicly commented on Bengio's role.
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Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.
An "AI ethicist" isn't exactly what I would call an AI researcher. These are generally liberal arts majors, not STEM majors who actually advance the field.
I wasn't aware the computer science (the field Margaret Mitchell's PhD is in) and electrical engineering (Timnit Gebru's PhD) were liberal arts degrees. Because you clearly don't understand ethics and science, people that lead these science ethics teams at major corporations and research institutions generally have both a STEM and liberal arts background. You can't have a discussion on the ethics of AI if you don't understand AI and humanity.
👆 that's exactly what happens when someone learns the word "liberal" in their PAC. They start throwing it around, without knowing what they're talking about. 🤦🤣
The word ethics should never be associated with Google, that company has no "ethics"