Google Chief Apologizes for A.I. Dismissal of the researcher


Sundar Pichai, executive director of Google parent company Alphabet, apologized for the departure of a prominent artificial intelligence researcher whose departure upset the company's workforce and asked questions about his stated commitment to diversity and the responsible development of A.I. Technology.

However, in an email to staff on Wednesday, Pichai failed to say the company was wrongly accelerating the resignation of Timnit Gebru, the co-head of Google's Ethical A.I. Team and one of the most famous black employees.

Dr. Gebru said last week that the company fired her after sending an email criticizing the company's lack of progress in recruiting women and minorities, as well as prejudice against artificial intelligence technology. She said she had requested an explanation of why the company asked her to withdraw a paper that found flaws in a new generation of language technologies, including a system developed by Google to aid the company's search engine.

She said, without a transparent explanation or further discussion, that she would step down after a reasonable time. The company immediately accepted her statement as a resignation and cut her off from all corporate services and systems.

Colleagues have stood up in defense of Dr. Gebru teamed up and stated that Google did not treat them fairly and that this incident is an example of how black employees are often mistreated in the company.

"I heard the reaction to Dr. Gebru & # 39; s departure loud and clear: it aroused doubts and made some in our community question their place on Google. I want to say how sorry I am and I take the responsibility to work to restore your trust, ”Pichai wrote in an email viewed by The New York Times, which Axios previously reported on.

"We need to evaluate the circumstances that led to Dr. Gebru and examine where we could have improved and had a more respectful process," he added. "We're going to begin a review of what happened to identify any points where we can learn."

On Twitter, Dr. Gebru, Mr. Pichai's email is not a real excuse. "I see this as," I'm sorry about the way it played out, but I'm not sorry what we did to her. "

The separation from Dr. Gebru is particularly difficult for Google as these are two sensitive issues for the company – lack of diversity in the workforce and concern about the dangerous consequences of artificial intelligence technology.

Dr. Gebru, who joined the company from Stanford last year, spoke out about the importance of the company's efforts to hire and retain more women and black workers, who currently make up less than 2 percent of the company's workforce. In addition, she examined the long-term effects of A.I. It runs counter to the company's strategic goals of using artificial intelligence as a breakthrough technology to improve most, if not all, of its products.

Last week, around 2,000 Google employees signed a petition protesting their dismissal from the company and demanding that executives within the research organization be more transparent about the circumstances surrounding Dr. Gebru be informed.

On Monday, members of Google's Ethical A.I. The team released a post denying some of the company's statements about her exit, including the company's claim that she was stepping down and not fired.

Jeff Dean, one of the chief executives at Google who ran the A.I. The research arm met with a group of staff on Tuesday to explain what happened to Dr. Gebru had happened, but many walked away from the meeting even more angry.