Sundar Pichai apologises for Google AI researcher's departure, says will probe

Top AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru took to Twitter last week to explain why she had been fired.
Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai
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Following the departure of top AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai has apologised for it and said he would probe the events that led to her leaving Google. Pichai, however, did not touch upon why was she fired as alleged by Gebru on social media.

"We need to accept responsibility for the fact that a prominent Black, female leader with immense talent left Google unhappily," Pichai wrote in an email to the staff first published by Axios on Wednesday.

"We need to assess the circumstances that led up to Dr. Gebru's departure, examining where we could have improved and led a more respectful process," the Google CEO wrote.

Famous for her work on algorithmic bias, particularly in facial recognition technology, Gebru who was the technical co-lead of Google's Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team, took to Twitter last week to explain why she has been fired.

According to Gebru, the decision to fire her actually came from Google's head of AI, Jeff Dean. Dean later explained the whole saga in an email to Google staff that was accessed and published by Platformer.

After Pichai wrote the email, Gebru dismissed it as not addressing the core issues around her firing. "I see no plans for accountability and there was further gaslighting in the statement," she said in a tweet.

The email "does not say 'I'm sorry for what we did to her and it was wrong.' ... I see this as 'I'm sorry for how it played out but I'm not sorry for what we did to her yet.”

"Don't paint me as an 'angry Black woman' for whom you need 'de-escalation strategies' for," she tweeted.

Supporting Gebru, the Google Walkout for Change group had posted from its Twitter account: "Dr Gebru is a pathbreaking scientist doing some of the most important work to ensure just and accountable AI and to create a welcoming and diverse AI research field.”

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