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Dec 10, 2021 4 min read

Timnit Gebru, ex-Google Head of AI, launches Ethics Research Group

Timnit Gebru, ex-Google Head of AI, launches Ethics Research Group
Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch (CC)

Wiser! Essay: When Timnit Gebru raised serious questions about Google's use of AI, she lost her job. One year later and Gebru has launched an AI Ethics Research team.

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The same big tech leaders who push out people like me are also the leaders who control big philanthropy and the government’s agenda for the future of AI research.Timnit Gebru in The Guardian.

BackStory:  This time last year, Timnit Gebru tweeted that she had been “immediately fired” from her role as co-lead of Google’s AI ethics team.

Exactly one year later, Gebru has announced her new venture: the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (DAIR). This global institute will focus on calling out the harms of artificial intelligence, especially it affects the most vulnerable groups. Through both research, and eventually consulting, Gebru hopes to push the tech industry toward a more ethical approach to AI deployment.

To recap, in December 2020, tensions between Gebru and the Google leadership team came to a head after a paper co-authored by Gebru raised some thorny questions for Google. The paper challenged Google (and Big Tech) about whether AI language models may be too big.

In simple terms, what this means is that these artificial intelligence systems are being trained on staggeringly huge amounts of data. They are now extraordinarily good, under the right conditions, at producing what looks like convincing, meaningful results. However, Gebru is also known for her research in AI biases where she found facial recognition to be less accurate at identifying women and people of colour, i.e., finding that AI systems can be discriminatory.

"AI is a core, transformative way by which we're thinking how we're doing everything," Google CEO Sandar Pichai

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