I summarized this article to my friends as: ‘How can we trust Big Tech? Google didn’t like hearing the truth from an intelligent woman, so they forced her out.’ And my friend Cathy pointed out it’s a woman of colour.
And if you take the basic position that Google lies, just as I take the basic position that Facebook lies, then you’d rightly take Google’s Jeff Dean’s explanation with a grain of salt. The MIT Technology Review noted that it doesn’t hold water based on practice.
The ousted woman, Dr Timnit Gebru, was the co-lead of Google’s ethical AI team—you can already spot the oxymoron as there is no place at Google, a company exercising monopoly powers and paying little tax, for ethics.
Dean claimed Gebru resigned voluntarily, which is being disputed by both current and former Google employees. The Review notes:
Online, many other leaders in the field of AI ethics are arguing that the company pushed her out because of the inconvenient truths that she was uncovering about a core line of its research—and perhaps its bottom line. More than 1,400 Google staff and 1,900 other supporters have also signed a letter of protest.
Dr Emily Bender of the University of Washington said in Ars Technica, ‘From the outside, it looks like someone at Google decided this was harmful to their interests.
‘Academic freedom is very important—there are risks when [research] is taking place in places that [don’t] have that academic freedom.’
It wouldn’t be the first time Google attempted to silence a critic, then claimed it did nothing of the sort.
And if it doesn’t like being warned about the dangers of AI, then what sort of horror awaits us from Google in that space? It’s not hard to foresee AI bots operating online being harmful or generating misinformation, with nothing to hold them back. Again from the Review:
In 2017, Facebook mistranslated a Palestinian man’s post, which said “good morning” in Arabic, as “attack them” in Hebrew, leading to his arrest.
We are letting these companies get away with being accessories to crimes and, in Facebook’s case, to genocide (over which it withheld evidence).