Google’s AI Ethics Team sets requirements for executives to ‘restore trust’

Google’s Ethical AI team sent Google executives a list of requirements to “restore trust” following the removal of co-lead and renowned researcher Timnit Gebru.

Google’s ethical AI team, which claims to advise on research, products and policy, wrote a six-page letter to company CEO Sundar Pichai, AI chief Jeff Dean, and technical vice president Megan Kacholia. The letter, titled “The Future of Ethical AI at Google Research” and seen by CNBC, contains demands from executives including removing Kacholia from the group’s reporting structure, withholding retaliation, and restoring Gebru to a higher level.

“Over the past two weeks, we’ve heard Google leadership say it is committed to continuing the important work of diversity, equality and inclusion within the Research PA and supporting the Ethical AI team,” the letter said. . “But we must remember that words that do not involve action are virtue signaling; they are harmful, evasive, defensive and show that leadership is incapable of understanding how our organization is part of the problem.”

Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letter.

The employee correspondence represents a distrust in leadership two weeks after Gebru, a well-known artificial intelligence researcher and technical co-lead of Google’s ethical AI team, tweeted that Google fired her over a disagreement over a research report examining bias in artificial intelligence. Gebru, who had been candid about the way the company treated black workers, claimed the treatment was indicative of a broader pattern at Google and sparked industry-wide support, including a petition signed by thousands of Google employees and industry peers.

Last week Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to employees, apologizing for the mistrust that had been sewn in the company and industry during Gebru’s departure, while promising the company a “evaluation” would launch what went wrong.

Earlier Wednesday, several Democratic Congressmen, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker a letter to Pichai, asking for details of his “review” of Gebru’s resignation, as well as Google’s efforts to reduce discriminatory bias in large-scale language models, which Jeff Dean initially pointed out as a reason to dismiss Gebru’s team’s paper. to point out. “The universe of elite AI researchers is limited in size, and Google’s policies regarding employee publication can significantly shape academic and public discourse on AI,” the congressional letter read.

“Google’s short-sighted decision to fire and retaliate against a core member of the Ethical AI team makes it clear that we need rapid and structural changes to continue this work, and if the legitimacy of the field as a whole is to continue to exist, “the letter from Google’s AI Ethics team reads.

The employees’ letter continues by asking for the removal of Kacholia, who the team said notified Gebru of her removal without notifying Gebru’s direct manager. “We have lost faith in Megan Kacholia and we call for her to be removed from our reporting chain,” the letter said. “Samy Bengio, Timnit’s former manager, must report directly to Jeff Dean.”

The group asks Jeff Dean and Kacholia to apologize to Gebru and be “held accountable,” stating that her resignation has hurt Gebru and the Black community at Google. “We believe it is absolutely necessary to remove Megan from our management chain.”

It also asks for details about Gebru’s shooting. “Without understanding the process and the extent to which each leader was involved, it is impossible to proceed with the structural changes required to ensure that this harmful behavior does not happen again,” the letter said.

It also calls for employees who defended Gebru not to be punished with “retaliation”.

“We know from Google’s previous retaliatory actions that they often harm and marginalize employees without outright firing them,” the employees say. “Instead, the company rates them poorly in future performance review cycles, shifting their daily workload to something less desirable, and setting other direct and indirect boundaries to career growth.”

Employees are also asking for “explicit commitments that will allow for research discussing the harms of certain technologies, including technologies that may link to Google’s interests, products and areas of research,” the letter said, asking for a Q1 end date. 2021.

Employees also asked for redeployment and at a higher level from Gebru.

“The removal of Timnit has had a demoralizing effect on our entire team,” the letter said. “Haar (Gebru) and Meg Mitchell had cultivated a diverse, productive team that thrived in a psychologically safe environment. Bringing Timnit her position back to the next level would go a long way in restoring trust and our team environment. rebuild. “

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