Thousands of Employees at tech giant Google have reportedly signed an open letter protesting the inclusion of conservatives on Google’s new A.I. ethics council.
MIT Technology Review reports that almost a thousand members of Google’s staff, multiple academic researchers and influential tech industry figures have signed an open letter protesting the inclusion of certain members of Google’s A.I. ethics council. Breitbart News previously reported on initial backlash following the appointment of Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James to the company’s new A.I. advisory board. Google has faced an “ethical minefield” when attempting to develop its A.I. systems; the company has been accused on multiple occasions of ethical and racial bias in the development of these systems.
Now, an open letter has been signed calling for the removal of Coles James from the council, along with Trumbull CEO Dyan Gibbens. Employees are reportedly taking issue with Coles James due to her position as president of the conservative group the Heritage Foundation; Gibbens position as CEO of Trumbull, a firm that develops A.I. systems for the defense industry, is reportedly the reason for anger at her appointment. Google employees have previously protested the company working with the U.S. military in the past.
Alessandro Acquisti, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who specializes in digital privacy issues, recently announced that he would not be taking up his offered position on the Google A.I. council stating: “While I’m devoted to research grappling with key ethical issues of fairness, rights & inclusion in AI, I don’t believe this is the right forum for me to engage in this important work.”
One Google employee speaking on the condition of anonymity told the MIT Technology Review that Coles James conservative opinions should deny her a place on the council. The employee stated: “She is a reactionary who denies trans people exist, who endorses radically anti-immigrant positions, and endorses anti-climate-change, anti-science positions.” The employee further added that A.I. algorithms can reinforce biases already seen in society and in the past have misgendered transgender people.
The employee stated for that reason, “the fact that [James] was included is pretty shocking. The employee continued to stay: “These technologies are shaping our social institutions, our lives, and access to resources. When AI fails, it doesn’t fail for rich white men working at tech companies. It fails for exactly the populations that the Heritage Foundation’s policies are already aiming to harm.”
The public letter signed by 855 Google employees and 143 other individuals was published to medium and took direct issue with Coles James position on the council stating: “Not only are James’ views counter to Google’s stated values but they are directly counter to the project of ensuring that the development and application of AI prioritizes justice over profit. Such a project should instead place representatives from vulnerable communities at the center of decision-making.”
Read the open letter in full here.