Google’s Ethical AI team sent Google executives a list of requests to “restore trust” after the removal of co-lead and renowned researcher Timnit Gebru.
Google’s ethical AI team, providing advice on research, product and guidelines, wrote a six-page letter to the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, AI chief Jeff Dean and technical vice president Megan Kacholia. The letter, titled “The Future of Ethical AI at Google Research,” watched by CNBC lists the demands made by executives, including removing Kacholia from the group’s reporting structure, renouncing retaliation, and reinstating Gebru a higher level.
“In the past two weeks we have heard that Google leadership has pledged to continue the important work of diversity, equity and inclusion within Research PA and to support the Ethical AI team,” the letter said. “But we need to remember that words that are not paired with action are signs of virtue. They are harmful, evasive, defensive, and show the inability of leadership to understand how our organization is part of the problem.”
Google did not immediately respond to requests for comments on the letter.
Employee correspondence depicts a distrust of 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 because of a disagreement over a research paper that questioned bias in artificial intelligence. Gebru, who spoke openly about the company’s treatment of black employees, claimed the treatment showed a broader pattern on Google and sparked industry support, including a petition signed by thousands of Google employees and industry peers.
Last week, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google, emailed staff apologizing for the suspicion the company and industry had felt when Gebru left while promising the company would do a “review” of the company Would initiate failure.
The previous Wednesday sent several members of the Democratic Congress, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker a letter to Pichai for details of his “review” of Gebru’s dismissal, as well as Google’s efforts to mitigate discriminatory prejudice in large-scale language models that Jeff Dean originally stated was a reason to reject the paper from Gebru’s team. “The universe of elite AI researchers is limited in size, and Google’s staff disclosure guidelines have the potential to significantly influence academic and public discourse on AI,” the congressional letter said.
“Google’s short-sighted decision to fire against a core member of the Ethical AI team and take revenge makes it clear that we need rapid and structural changes if this work is to continue and if the legitimacy of the entire field is to be maintained.” Letter from Google’s AI Ethics team reads.
The employee’s letter also asks for the removal of Kacholia, which, according to the team, has informed Gebru about their removal without notifying Gebru’s direct manager. “We have lost confidence in Megan Kacholia and are demanding that she be removed from our reporting chain,” the letter said. “Samy Bengio, Timnit’s former manager, should report directly to Jeff Dean.”
The group asks Jeff Dean and Kacholia to apologize to Gebru and be “held accountable”. She explains that her dismissal has harmed Gebru and the Black Community on Google. “We see it as essential to remove Megan from our management chain.”
Details of Gebru’s shot are also requested. “Without the process and the extent to which each leader has been involved, it is impossible to drive the structural changes needed to ensure this harmful behavior does not recur,” the letter said.
It also called for employees who defended Gebru not to be punished with “retaliation”.
“We know from previous retaliatory acts by Google that they often harm and marginalize workers without firing them directly,” the employees explain. “Instead, the company will rank them poorly in future performance review cycles, shifting their daily workload to something less desirable, and placing other direct and indirect limits on career growth.”
The staff also called for “explicit commitments that allow research to discuss the harms of certain technologies, including those that may be related to Google’s interests, products and research areas,” the letter reads, calling for a deadline for the end of the first quarter of 2021.
The staff also called for Gebru to be reinstated at a higher level.
“The removal of Timnit has had a demoralizing effect on our entire team,” the letter said. “She (Gebru) and Meg Mitchell had built a diverse, productive team that had succeeded in a psychologically safe environment. Restoring Timnit to their position at a higher level would go a long way towards restoring trust and rebuilding our team environment. “
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