Google artificial intelligence scientist resigns after controversial expulsion of his colleagues

Angela Lang / CNET

Samy Bengio, a prominent research director at Google’s artificial intelligence division, said Tuesday that he is resigning from the company. The move comes after months of upheaval following the high-profile dismissals of two AI ethics researchers on his team.

Bengio, a 14-year veteran at the search giant, worked on the Google Brain unit that focused on deep learning and artificial intelligence. Google confirmed Bengio’s resignation but declined to comment further. Bengio did not respond to a request for comment.

“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. , Bengio wrote in an email to staff, according to Bloomberg, which previously reported the news. He made no mention of the departures of other employees in his letter, according to the report.

Bengio is the highest-ranking Google employee to leave since the company’s AI ethics unit plunged into chaos in December. Timnit Gebru, one of the few prominent black women in the field, announced on Twitter that she was fired for a research article that mentions the risks of bias in artificial intelligence, including in the systems used by the Google search engine.

Two months later, Google fired Margaret Mitchell, who co-led the company’s ethical AI team with Gebru, following an investigation into its handling of company data. Mitchell had reportedly used automated software to check his old messages for examples of discriminatory treatment of Gebru.

In the days after Gebru’s departure, he expressed his support for the researcher in a Facebook post. “I’m by your side, Timnit,” he wrote. “I also support the rest of my team who, like me, were flabbergasted and are trying to make sense of it all.”

The episode has shocked Google’s artificial intelligence team. In February, Google said it is restructuring its teams that focus on responsible AI development. The new team is led by Marian Croak, vice president of engineering for the tech giant.

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