What a Scandal at Google Says About the Future of AI

What a Scandal at Google Says About the Future of AI
A building at Google’s campus in Mountain View, California, Sept. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Jeff Chiu).

Earlier this month, Timnit Gebru, the co-leader of a team of researchers at Google specializing in the ethical implications of artificial intelligence, was unceremoniously ousted from her position. Some of the circumstances that led to her departure are disputed, but Gebru—a Black woman in a field that is overwhelmingly white and male—claims she was forced out for drawing unwelcome attention to the lack of diversity in Google’s workforce. She also claims she was “silenced” for her refusal to retract a paper that she had co-authored on ethical problems associated with certain types of AI models that are central to Google’s business.

The episode has sparked a fierce backlash across Silicon Valley and beyond, including among current and former Google employees. This week on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Karen Hao, the senior AI reporter for MIT Technology Review, to discuss the reaction to Gebru’s dismissal and the troubling issues she has raised around the ethical implications of recent advances in AI. To learn more about this topic, check out Karen’s weekly newsletter, The Algorithm, and the podcast she co-produces, In Machines We Trust. Click here to read a transcript of an excerpt from the interview.


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Trend Lines is edited by Peter Dörrie, a freelance journalist and analyst focusing on security and resource politics in Africa. You can follow him on Twitter at @peterdoerrie.

To send feedback or questions, email us at podcast@worldpoliticsreview.com.