Apple has reportedly hired a former Google AI veteran who quit the company amidst a scandal over the company’s firing of two female AI ethics researchers.
Engadget reports that Google AI veteran Samy Bengio has joined Apple after quitting Google in protest of the company’s treatment of two female AI ethics researchers. Bengio will reportedly lead a new AI research unit at Apple where he will join multiple former Google employees and Apple’s current VP of machine learning and AI strategy, John Giannandrea.
Bengio left Google last week after 14 years working at the firm following Google’s controversial firing of two AI ethics researchers, Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell. Both researchers reported to Bengio on multiple projects. The two researchers were advocates of diversity in their field and had warned of the dangers of large language models and algorithmic bias in Google products.
In a statement posted to Facebook following Gebru’s firing, Bengio stated that he was stunned and stood by Gebru and the rest of his team. Google responded to these comments by reorganizing its ethical AI research unit to place Dr. Marian Croak as its lead in February, diminishing Bengio’s duties.
Apple’s hiring of Bengio is the latest in a series of efforts to bolster its machine learning division through recruitment and tech acquisitions. Bengio was a high-ranking member of the Google Brain research team which has been involved in the development of a number of AI breakthroughs including brain mapping, image upscaling, and accessibility.
Breitbart News reported in February that an engineering director and a software developer at Google quit over the dismissal of AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru. David Baker, an engineering director focused on user safety, left the company after 16 years because Gebru’s exit “extinguished my desire to continue as a Googler,” he said in a letter. Baker added: “We cannot say we believe in diversity, and then ignore the conspicuous absence of many voices from within our walls.”
Google software engineer Vinesh Kannan stated that he left the company because Google mistreated Gebru and April Christina Curley, a recruiter who claims she was wrongly fired last year. Breitbart News reported last December that Gebru alleges that she was approached by a manager at Google and asked to retract or remove her name from a research paper that she had coauthored as an internal review at Google found the contents of the paper objectionable.
The paper discussed ethical issues raised by advances in artificial intelligence working with language, an area of research that Google believes is important to the future of its business. Gebru objected to retracting the paper or removing her name from it, calling the practice unscholarly. A short time later she was fired by the Silicon Valley giant. A Google spokesperson alleged that she resigned and was not fired but declined to comment further.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address firstname.lastname@example.org