Google AI Researcher Samy Bengio Resigns After Colleagues' Firings, Internal Email Shows

At least two Google engineers had earlier resigned to protest the dismissal of AI researcher Timnit Gebru.

Google AI Researcher Samy Bengio Resigns After Colleagues' Firings, Internal Email Shows

Google has pledged several changes at the town hall aiming to regain researchers' trust

Highlights
  • Google in February fired Mitchell, a lead researcher
  • Bengio expressed solidarity with Gebru in a message shared on Facebook
  • Mitchell used Twitter to thank Bengio for supporting her and Gebru

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 unit after the firings of his colleagues who questioned paper review and diversity practices.

Though at least two Google engineers had earlier resigned to protest the dismissal of artificial intelligence (AI) researcher Timnit Gebru, Bengio is the highest-profile employee yet to depart.

Google confirmed Bengio's resignation and his email. Bengio did not respond to requests for comment. Bloomberg earlier reported the news.

A distinguished scientist at Google, Bengio spent about 14 years at the company and was among its first employees involved in a decade-old project known as Google Brain that advanced algorithms crucial to the functioning of various modern AI systems.

Andrew Ng, an early Brain member who now runs software startup Landing AI, said Bengio "has been instrumental to moving forward AI technology and ethics." Another founding member, Jeff Dean, now oversees Google's thousands of researchers.

Google Brain researcher Sara Hooker in a tweet described Bengio's departure as "a huge loss for Google."

In the internal email Bengio had sent, he said he decided to leave Google to pursue "other exciting opportunities" and that his last day would be April 28.

Google fired staff scientist Margaret Mitchell in February after alleging she transferred electronic files out of the company. It fired fellow researcher Gebru in December after she threatened to quit rather than retract a paper.

Mitchell has said she tried "to raise concerns about race and gender inequity, and speak up about Google's problematic firing of Dr. Gebru." Gebru has said the company wanted to suppress her criticism of its products and its efforts to increase workforce diversity. Google has said it accepted her offer to resign.

Bengio had defended the pair, who co-led a team of about a dozen people researching ethical issues related to AI software. In December, Bengio wrote on Facebook that he was stunned that Gebru, whom he was managing, was removed from the company without him being consulted.

Though he did not mention the firings in his farewell note, they influenced his decision to resign, people familiar with the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Bengio wrote in the email, "I learned so much with all of you, in terms of machine learning research of course, but also on how difficult yet important it is to organize a large team of researchers so as to promote long term ambitious research, exploration, rigor, diversity, and inclusion."

Nicolas Le Roux, a Google Brain researcher, told Reuters that Bengio had devoted himself to making the research organization more inclusive and "created a space where everyone felt welcome."

Google recently moved oversight of the AI ethics team from Bengio to vice president Marian Croak. In February, Croak told staff at a town hall that Google wanted management that could focus fully on that area, saying it had just been a small part of what Bengio was supporting.

Google also pledged several changes at the town hall aiming to regain researchers' trust, Reuters previously reported.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


What is the best phone under Rs. 15,000 in India right now? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Later (starting at 27:54), we speak to OK Computer creators Neil Pagedar and Pooja Shetty. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.

Comments

For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Further reading: Google, Timnit Gebru, Samy Bengio, Alphabet
Facebook Says Hackers 'Scraped' Data of 533 Million Users in 2019 Leak
iQoo Neo 5 Allegedly Gets BIS Certification, Hints at Imminent India Launch

Related Stories

Share on Facebook Tweet Snapchat Share Reddit Comment
 
 

Advertisement

Advertisement

© Copyright Red Pixels Ventures Limited 2021. All rights reserved.
Listen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com