Read the Email That Led to the Exit of Google A.I. Ethicist Timnit Gebru
‘Your life gets worse when you start advocating for underrepresented people’
Timnit Gebru, one of Google’s most prominent researchers on ethics and computer vision, says she was fired this week after sending an email to Google Brain Women and Allies, an internal resource group at the company.
The email alludes to Google censoring one of Gebru’s research papers without talking to her about it, as well as the poor treatment of those who advocate for underrepresented people at the company. The email was published in full on the outlet Platformer.
After sending the email, Gebru had an exchange with managers and privately threatened to quit unless certain undisclosed conditions were met. Instead, Gebru says she was immediately fired, she told OneZero’s Will Oremus.
Noted A.I. Ethicist Timnit Gebru Let Go From Google Following Tense Email Exchange
Gebru is known for influential research about bias in facial recognition
Gebru’s contributions to the field have shaped modern understanding of how artificial intelligence fails and the technical underpinnings of how algorithms treat underrepresented people differently. A Twitter thread by Fast.ai co-founder Rachel Thomas lays out how Gebru’s years of scholarship have influenced A.I. research, including her co-authoring a seminal work that showed facial recognition is far less accurate on women of color than on white men.
Gebru helped lead of Google’s A.I. ethics team and co-founded Black in A.I., an international organization focused on supporting Black A.I. researchers and expanding access to the traditionally exclusive field.
According to the Platformer, the email reads, in part:
Imagine this: You’ve sent a paper for feedback to 30+ researchers, you’re awaiting feedback from PR & Policy who you gave a heads up before you even wrote the work saying “we’re thinking of doing this”, working on a revision plan figuring out how to address different feedback from people, haven’t heard from PR & Policy besides them asking you for updates (in 2 months). A week…