PEOPLE: Google’s Star AI Ethics Researcher Allegedy Forced Out. MIT Review Investigates What Happened With Timnit Gebru…

From MIT Technology Review….

On the evening of Wednesday, December 2, Timnit Gebru, the co-lead of Google’s ethical AI team, announced via Twitter that the company had forced her out.

Gebru, a widely respected leader in AI ethics research, is known for coauthoring a groundbreaking paper that showed facial recognition to be less accurate at identifying women and people of color, which means its use can end up discriminating against them.

She also cofounded the Black in AI affinity group, and champions diversity in the tech industry. The team she helped build at Google is one of the most diverse in AI and includes many leading experts in their own right. Peers in the field envied it for producing critical work that often challenged mainstream AI practices.

A series of tweets, leaked emails, and media articles showed that Gebru’s exit was the culmination of a conflict over another paper she coauthored.

Online, many other leaders in the field of AI ethics are arguing that the company pushed her out because of the inconvenient truths that she was uncovering about a core line of its research—and perhaps its bottom line. More than 1,400 Google staff members and 1,900 other supporters have also signed a letter of protest.

Many details of the exact sequence of events that led up to Gebru’s departure are not yet clear; both she and Google have declined to comment beyond their posts on social media.

But MIT Technology Review obtained a copy of the research paper from one of the coauthors, Emily M. Bender, a professor of computational linguistics at the University of Washington.

Though Bender asked us not to publish the paper itself because the authors didn’t want such an early draft circulating online, it gives some insight into the questions Gebru and her colleagues were raising about AI that might be causing Google concern.

To read the entire article in the MIT Review, click here.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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