Google’s Samy Bengio leaves amid fallout from AI researcher firing

The Google logo outside of its offices in New York City, which were closed on May 19, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Samy Bengio, a well-known researcher at Google’s Brain research group, announced Tuesday that he will resign from Google.

Bengio is the highest-ranking official to leave amid the fallout from Google’s handling of ethics researcher Timnit Gebru, a well-known artificial intelligence researcher at Google. who She said the company abruptly fired her last fall after she asked for clarity on a retracted document.

“This is one of the most difficult emails I can think of to send to all of you – I have decided to leave Google to look for other interesting opportunities,” Bengio wrote in an email to his Google research team obtained by CNBC. “There is no doubt that leaving this wonderful team is really difficult.” His last day is April 28.

Bengio supervised the Gebru team and said in December that he was not notified that the company had fired Gebru. He started at Google in 2007, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Bloomberg first reported on Bengio’s resignation.

“I’m by your side, Timnit,” he wrote in a Facebook post in December. “I also support the rest of my team who, like me, were shocked and trying to make sense of it all. In particular, the Ethical AI team, but also the broader Brain Research team.”

Gebru was the co-technical director of the ethical AI team at Google and worked on algorithmic bias and data mining. She is a well-known advocate for diversity in technology and is the co-founder of a community of black researchers called Black in AI.

CEO Sundar Pichai promised to investigate after industry-wide outrage over Gebru’s firing. In February, the company said it concluded the investigation and made adjustments to its diversity and research policies. He declined to share the research findings.

But that didn’t stop the consequences. The company fired Margaret Mitchell, Gebru’s co-director, in February, alleging that she transferred electronic files outside the company. Academics rejected money of Google. At least some employees have resigned, citing the company’s handling of the investigation and Gebru’s departure.

Although Bengio did not mention Gebru specifically in his outgoing email on Tuesday, he congratulated his team for improving their “understanding of machine learning and its impact on the world.”

“I have 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 long-term ambitious research, exploration, rigor and diversity. term. and inclusion “.

Neither Google nor Samy Bengio immediately responded to requests for comment.

Watch now: A renowned AI researcher says Google abruptly fired her, drawing criticism from across the industry


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