Black AI researcher creates new organization one year after Google Fallout


Researcher in artificial intelligence Timnit Gebru sparked a storm a year ago when she announced she had been fired from tech giant Google for questioning the potential dangers of emerging technology. Now she’s taking AI ethics a step further with a new research institute, according to WIRED.

She recently founded Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research (DAIR), an organization dedicated to analyzing the impacts of AI technology while having a more inclusive workforce. Gebru, who is also the executive director of DAIR, says the industry is dominated by western white males and needs to make room for other minorities and nationalities.

Gebru has reportedly clashed with senior Google officials over a research paper focusing on biases in algorithms and word processing technology. The tech giant, along with other large companies, have quickly embraced the technology despite the risks, WIRED said.

Google claims that Gebru resigned and was not fired. When reporters asked the company about the incident, a spokesperson declined to comment, but pointed to Google’s work on AI governance and “responsible innovation.”

“Instead of fighting from within, I want to show a model of an independent institution with a different set of incentive structures,” Gebru said. Its ouster has since sparked controversy around tech companies using researchers to study the implications of the technology they might benefit from. Gebru says DAIR will give experts and researchers more thought about the potential threats and downsides of AI.

Another DAIR initiative shows how artificial intelligence can be used in other ways. The nonprofit is set to enter academia with its research later this month. Researchers plan to show how apartheid has affected land use in South Africa using a public dataset of aerial images at NeurIPS, the world’s largest AI conference, according to journalists.

You can read more about the organization here.


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