Google hired Timnit Gebru to be an outspoken critic of unethical AI. Then she was fired for it.

Timnit Gebru and Google

Timnit Gebru is one of the most high-profile Black women in her field and a powerful voice in the new field of ethical AI, which seeks to identify issues around bias, fairness, and responsibility. Google hired her, then fired her.

This article argues that leading AI ethics researchers, such as Timnit Gebru, are often promised total academic freedom when recruited or interviewed for in-house roles at technology companies. However, internal roadblocks, lack of employee diversity, and hierarchical issues limit the impact of this research which aims to promote equity, fairness, and accountability in AI products. Only 10 percent of the AI research staff at Google are women, and Black women make up only 1.6 percent of the total workforce. Until these numbers significantly improve, and leadership removes the aforementioned impediments, it will be difficult to take in-house AI ethics research at tech companies seriously.