Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologizes for Timnit Gebru controversy however not her firing
Google CEO Sundar Pichai addressed the controversial departure of AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru in an electronic mail to employees on Wednesday. “We have to settle for accountability for the truth that a outstanding Black, feminine chief with immense expertise left Google unhappily,” he wrote. Information of the e-mail was first revealed by Axios.
Whereas Pichai didn’t say Gebru was fired as she and plenty of others have claimed, he promised to evaluate the steps that led to her leaving the corporate. “We have to assess the circumstances that led as much as Dr. Gebru’s departure, analyzing the place we may have improved and led a extra respectful course of,” he wrote.
He additionally apologized for the way Gebru’s departure had “led some in our group to query their place at Google” and promised to contemplate “de-escalation methods” for the longer term.
On Twitter, Gebru wrote the be aware was removed from an apology.
Lastly it doesn’t say “I am sorry for what we did to her and it was fallacious.” What it DOES say is “it seeded doubts and led some in our group to query their place at Google.” So I see this as “I am sorry for the way it performed out however I am not sorry for what we did to her but.” 4
— Timnit Gebru (@timnitGebru) December 9, 2020
Final week, Gebru tweeted that the corporate had abruptly fired her over an electronic mail she despatched to the Mind and Ladies Allies listserv. Within the electronic mail, she voiced frustration on the firm making an attempt to get her to retract a analysis paper on the dangers of huge language processing fashions.
The e-mail led to a dialog between Gebru and higher-ups at Google Analysis. Gebru requested for sure circumstances to be met to ensure that her to remain on the firm, together with understanding the small print of who had requested for her paper to be retracted. One of many managers, Megan Kacholia, stated the corporate couldn’t meet these circumstances and preemptively accepted her resignation.
Google’s head of AI, Jeff Dean, revealed a be aware explaining why Gebru’s paper hadn’t met the corporate’s requirements. He stated it had been submitted for evaluate a day earlier than the deadline when the corporate sometimes requires two weeks.
However Gebru’s personal group pushed again on this evaluation, writing in a blogpost that the publication evaluate coverage was utilized “inconsistently and discriminatorily.” An inner evaluation reviewed by The Verge confirmed that the majority publication approvals occur proper earlier than the deadline, and 41 % occur after the deadline. “Quite a few papers are authorized for publication submission with out assembly this ‘requirement,’” the group wrote.
On December 4th, the Google Walkout Medium account revealed a petition protesting Gebru’s firing. It was signed by 2,278 Google workers and three,114 trade allies.
Learn Pichai’s full electronic mail right here:
One of many issues I’ve been most happy with this yr is how Googlers from throughout the corporate got here collectively to deal with our racial fairness commitments. It’s onerous, necessary work, and whereas we’re steadfast in our dedication to do higher, we’ve got so much to be taught and enhance. An necessary piece of that is studying from our experiences just like the departure of Dr. Timnit Gebru.
I’ve heard the response to Dr. Gebru’s departure loud and clear: it seeded doubts and led some in our group to query their place at Google. I need to say how sorry I’m for that, and I settle for the accountability of working to revive your belief.
First – we have to assess the circumstances that led as much as Dr. Gebru’s departure, analyzing the place we may have improved and led a extra respectful course of. We’ll start a evaluate of what occurred to establish all of the factors the place we are able to be taught — contemplating every part from de-escalation methods to new processes we are able to put in place. Jeff and I’ve spoken and are absolutely dedicated to doing this. Probably the greatest elements of Google’s engineering tradition is our honest want to grasp the place issues go fallacious and the way we are able to enhance.
Second – we have to settle for accountability for the truth that a outstanding Black, feminine chief with immense expertise left Google unhappily. This loss has had a ripple impact by way of a few of our least represented communities, who noticed themselves and a few of their experiences mirrored in Dr. Gebru’s. It was additionally keenly felt as a result of Dr. Gebru is an knowledgeable in an necessary space of AI Ethics that we should proceed to make progress on — progress that relies on our skill to ask ourselves difficult questions.
It’s extremely necessary to me that our Black, ladies, and underrepresented Googlers know that we worth you and also you do belong at Google. And the burden of pushing us to do higher mustn’t fall in your shoulders. We began a dialog collectively earlier this yr once we introduced a broad set of racial fairness commitments to take a recent have a look at all of our techniques from hiring and leveling, to promotion and retention, and to deal with the necessity for management accountability throughout all of those steps. The occasions of the final week are a painful however necessary reminder of the progress we nonetheless must make.
This can be a high precedence for me and Google leads, and I need to recommit to translating the vitality that we’ve seen this yr into actual change as we transfer ahead into 2021 and past.
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