Saturday, January 22, 2022

Google’s Former AI Researcher Timnit Gebru Launching Her Own Institute

AI researcher Timnit Gebru

*A year ago, Google fired AI researcher Timnit Gebru, who is Black, for criticizing the company’s lack of diversity. Now she is launching a new artificial intelligence institute after reportedly being awarded $3.7 million in funding from the MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Kapor Center, Open Society Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. 

Her new organization, Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (DAIR), is “focused on the harms of the technology on marginalized groups, who often face disproportionate consequences from AI systems but have less influence in its development,” writes The Washington Post, adding that the DAIR “aims to both document harms and develop a vision for AI applications that can have a positive impact on the same groups.”

“I’ve been frustrated for a long time about the incentive structures that we have in place and how none of them seem to be appropriate for the kind of work I want to do,” Gebru said.

READ MORE: Google Under Investigation Over Treatment Of Black Female Workers

Here’s more from the publication:

Gebru said DAIR will join an existing ecosystem of smaller, independent institutes, such as Data & Society, Algorithmic Justice League, and Data for Black Lives. She hopes DAIR will be able to influence AI policies and practices inside Big Tech companies like Google from the outside — a tactic Gebru said she employed during her time at Google.

DAIR aims to “Influence AI policies and practices inside Big Tech companies like Google,” per the report. 

Meanwhile, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is taking seriously claims made by multiple Black women who have worked for Google’s parent firm Alphabet, and experienced incidents of harassment and discrimination, Business Insider reports. The investigation comes after Google fired Gebru last year over her published academic papers in which she criticized the tech giant’s approach to ethical AI.

An insider told Reuters that the state’s civil rights regulator has conducted interviews with Black women that date back to as recently as November. Both current and former Black female Google employees said they weren’t taken seriously by white male colleagues and management, and they were marginalized on projects. 

“This institutional racism, it’s not even just limited to Google. It’s most of these institutions in general, and specifically in the tech companies, are institutionally racist,” Timnit Gebru told the BBC.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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