(Reuters) – Google research manager Samy Bengio said on Tuesday he was resigning, according to an internal email seen by Reuters, in a blow to the Alphabet Inc unit after the firings of his colleagues who questioned the document review. and diversity practices.
Although at least two Google engineers had previously resigned to protest the firing of artificial intelligence (AI) researcher Timnit Gebru, Bengio is the highest-profile employee yet to leave.
Google confirmed Bengio’s resignation and his email. Bengio did not respond to requests for comment. Bloomberg previously reported the news.
Bengio, a distinguished scientist at Google, spent about 14 years at the company and was among its first employees involved in a decade-long project known as Google Brain that advanced algorithms crucial to the operation of various modern AI systems.
Andrew Ng, an early Brain member who now runs software startup Landing AI, said Bengio “has been instrumental in advancing the technology and ethics of artificial intelligence.” Another founding member, Jeff Dean, now oversees the thousands of Google researchers.
Google Brain researcher Sara Hooker described Bengio’s departure in a tweet as “a great loss to Google.”
In the internal email Bengio had sent, he said that he decided to leave Google to search for “other interesting opportunities” and that his last day would be April 28.
Google fired scientist Margaret Mitchell in February after alleging that she transferred electronic files outside the company. He fired fellow researcher Gebru in December after she threatened to resign rather than retract an article.
Mitchell has said that he tried to “raise concerns about racial and gender inequality, and talk about the problematic firing of Dr. Gebru by Google.” Gebru has said the company wanted to suppress its criticism of its products and its efforts to increase the diversity of the workforce. Google has said that it accepted his offer to resign.
Bengio had advocated for the couple, who co-led a team of about a dozen people investigating ethical issues related to artificial intelligence software. In December, Bengio wrote on Facebook that he was surprised that Gebru, whom he ran, was removed from the company without being consulted.
Although he did not mention the layoffs in his farewell note, they influenced his decision to resign, said people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Bengio wrote in the email: “I learned a lot from all of you, in terms of machine learning research, of course, but also about how difficult but important it is to organize a large team of researchers to promote ambitious long-term research.” exploration, rigor, diversity and inclusion ”.
Nicolas Le Roux, a researcher at Google Brain, told Reuters that Bengio had dedicated himself to making the research organization more inclusive and “created a space where everyone felt welcome.”
Google recently transferred oversight of the AI ethics team from Bengio to Vice President Marian Croak. In February, Croak told staff at a city hall that Google wanted an administration that could fully focus on that area, saying it had only been a small part of what Bengio was supporting.
Google also promised several changes to the city council in order to regain the trust of investigators, Reuters previously reported.
Information from Paresh Dave and Jeffrey Dastin, additional information from Munsif Vengattil; Edited by Lisa Shumaker, Anil D’Silva, Karishma Singh and Michael Perry