Timrit Gebru Biography – Timrit Gebru Wiki
Timrit Gebru, who helped lead Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence team, says she was fired over an email chastising the way the company treats workers of color and women, as well as conflict over a research paper that she says was censored by the tech giant.
“We know these companies are not for Black women,” he wrote on Twitter, and he got a flood of support here. According to Platformer, the internal email that raised questions about the censorship of the research paper was rated by Google as “inconsistent with the expectations of a Google administrator”.
In an open letter published on Medium.com, some Google employees criticized the termination as “unprecedented research censorship.”
“We, the undersigned, are in solidarity with Dr. Timnit Gebru, who was dismissed as Research Fellow and Co-Chair of the Ethical Artificial Intelligence (AI) team at Google following unprecedented research censorship,” the letter said. “We urge Google Research to make a firm commitment to strengthen its commitment to research integrity and to support research that fulfills the commitments outlined in Google’s Artificial Intelligence Principles.”
According to Bloomberg, Gebru is “an alumni of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory” and “one of the leading voices in the ethical use of AI.”
Bloomberg reports that she is “well-known for her work on a landmark study in 2018 that showed how facial recognition software misidentified dark-skinned women as much as 35% of the time, whereas the technology worked with near precision on White men.”
A 2018 article published on LinkedIn called her a “Techno-Activist Addressing Bias in Artificial Intelligence.”
“Gebru, who has a PhD from the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is at the forefront of many of the efforts to correct this glaring flaw in the critically important field of AI,” that article explained. “Whether it be researchers working on data sets, the creation of standards and guidelines for machine learning or the fairness and transparency with which we go about training computers to create algorithms, Gebru is taking on some big challenges.”
A 2018 article in MIT Technology Review wrote that Gebru was “part of Microsoft’s Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, and Ethics in AI group, which she joined last summer. She also cofounded the Black in AI event at the Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference in 2017 and was on the steering committee for the first Fairness and Transparency conference.
She told MIT Technology Review, “We are in a diversity crisis for AI. In addition to having technical conversations, conversations about law, conversations about ethics, we need to have conversations about diversity in AI. We need all sorts of diversity in AI. And this needs to be treated as something that’s extremely urgent. ”
I stand in solidarity with @timnitGebru. This is a moment to hold Google Research accountable to its stated commitments to DEI, academic integrity, & the AI principles, & demand transparency into decisions leading to Timnit’s dismissal. Sign the letter: https://t.co/R2deVLc5e6
— Emily Denton (@cephaloponderer) December 4, 2020
She also told the publication that it was difficult to be a Black woman in the field, saying, “It’s not easy. I love my job. I love the research that I work on. I love the field. I cannot imagine what else I would do in that respect. That being said, it’s very difficult to be a black woman in this field. When I started Black in AI, I started it with a couple of my friends. I had a tiny mailing list before that where I literally would add any black person I saw in this field into the mailing list and be like, ‘Hi, I’m Timnit. I’m black person number two. Hi, black person number one. Let’s be friends. ‘”
In the letter until 2 December 2020, “Dr. Gebru was one of the very few Black female Research Scientists in the company and generally boasts a gloomy Black employee 1.6%. His research achievements are extensive and have profoundly influenced academic scholarship and public policy. Dr. Gebru is a groundbreaking scientist who has done some of the most important work to provide a fair and responsible AI research and create a friendly and diverse AI research space.
The letter continues:
Dr. Instead of being adopted by Google as an extraordinarily talented and productive participant, Gebru has faced defense, racism, gaslighting, research censorship and now a fire of retaliation. Google executives, on the evening of December 2, 2020, Dr. In an e-mail Gebru sent to his team, he claimed that he had chosen to resign. This is wrong. These managers, Dr. In their direct correspondence with Gebru, they reported that the termination was immediate and cited an email to the Google Brain variety and inclusion mailing list as an excuse.
In the letter, the content of this e-mail is important.
I was fired by @JeffDean for my email to Brain women and Allies. My corp account has been cutoff. So I’ve been immediately fired 🙂
— Timnit Gebru (@timnitGebru) December 3, 2020
Dr. Gebru opposed the censorship of Google’s research (and his colleagues) focusing on studying the environmental and ethical impacts of large-scale AI language models (LLMs) used in many Google products. Dr. Gebru and his colleagues worked for months on an article under review at an academic conference. In late November, about two months after the article was internally reviewed and approved for publication through standard processes, the Google leadership decided to censor the text without any warning or reason. Dr. Gebru asked them to explain and to account for this decision, and for their dull stance on discriminatory and harassing workplace conditions. Termination, Dr. It is an act of retaliation against Gebru and heralds the danger for those who work for ethical and fair AI at Google – especially Blacks and People of Color.
The letter made a number of demands, including commitment to academic freedom.
Gebru told the world she was fired on Twitter.
“I was fired by @JeffDean for my email to Brain women and Allies. My corp account has been cutoff. So I’ve been immediately fired 🙂 ”she wrote on Twitter. (Dean’s Twitter profile describes him as “Senior Fellow & SVP, Google AI (Research and Health). Co-designer / implementor of software systems like @TensorFlow, MapReduce, Bigtable, Spanner.”
According to Platformer, Dean, the head of Google research, claimed to employees that Gebru “had issued ultimatum and would resign unless certain conditions were met.”
Just like that, Google lost the little legitimacy it had. @timnitGebru has been nothing but the ideal role model for Black women, an aspiration, and a towering figure that keeps pushing the whole field of AI ethics to respectable standard. https://t.co/LfMc8XuSOH
— Abeba Birhane (@Abebab) December 3, 2020
“I would post my email here but my corp account has been cutoff. I feel bad for my teammates but for me its better to know the beast than to pretend. @negar_rz didn’t even have any idea things had escalated this quickly. ”
She added, “I need to be very careful what I say so let me be clear. They can come after me. No one told me that I was fired. You know legal speak, given that we are seeing who we are dealing with. This is the exact email I received from Megan who reports to Jeff. Who I can’t imagine would do this without consulting and clearing with him of course. ”
She then wrote “So this is what is written in the email:” and included the following:
“Thanks for making your conditions clear. We cannot agree to # 1 and # 2 as you are requesting. We respect your decision to leave Google as a result, and we are accepting your resignation. However, we believe the end of your employment should happen faster than your email reflects because certain aspects of the email you sent last night to non-management employees in the brain group reflect behavior that is inconsistent with the expectations of a Google manager. As a result, we are accepting your resignation immediately, effective today. We will send your final paycheck to your address in Workday. When you return from your vacation, PeopleOps will reach out to you to coordinate the return of Google devices and assets. ”
Gebru also wrote, “Apparently my manager’s manager sent an email my direct reports saying she accepted my resignation. I hadn’t resigned — I had asked for simple conditions first and said I would respond when I’m back from vacation. But I guess she decided for me 🙂 that’s the lawyer speak. ”
On November 30, Gebru wrote on Twitter, “Is there anyone working on regulation protecting Ethical AI researchers, similar to whistleblower protection? Because with the amount of censorship & intimidation that goes on towards people in specific groups, how does anyone trust any real research in this area can take place? ”
In a Medium.com article, Gebru described her background.
“My dad was an electrical engineer, and my two sisters were also electrical engineers. It was kind of destiny. When I was growing up, I really liked math and physics, but because my dad was an electrical engineer, it seemed like a natural thing for me to pursue, ”the article says.
“When I entered college, I was planning on double majoring in electrical engineering and music, but I found that I didn’t like some of the classes. I worked at Apple for a few years doing analog circuit design. Then I got a master’s and got even deeper into the hardware side of things. ”
She added, “I started – and eventually left – a PhD working on optical coherence tomography because I didn’t like it and I felt very isolated. Instead of being really interested in making physical devices like interferometers, I became interested in computer vision. During that time, I took an image processing class and started to get interested in computer vision. That sparked my decision to pursue my PhD in computer vision [advised by Fei-Fei Li, AI4ALL’s co-founder]. ”
Support to Gebru filled Twitter. “@TimnitGebru is the best manager I have ever had. This is not real,” one person wrote.
“REAL-TIME – we see how aggressively these tech companies are acting against Black women. Look no further. Ifeoma Ozoma, founder of Earthseed, is on Google right now, please speak in any way you can – especially if you have the security to do it, talk outside, he wrote.
“I’m so sorry to see this. Timnit’s research is incredibly important to our field and deserves recognition and support,” said Natasha Jaques, a research scientist at Google.
Jade Abbott, staff engineer for Team Retro Rabbit, said, “I have a few small hopes for big tech. The first was Google’s continued support of @timnitGebru’s vital work. It showed their willingness to reflect firmly on their outcomes – a system that successfully struggles with itself and thrives as a result. ”
Doctoral student Abeba Birhane said, “Just like that, Google lost its little legitimacy. @timnitGebru was nothing more than an ideal role model for Black women, a desire and a rising figure who continues to push the entire field of AI ethics to a respectable standard. ”
The research paper, which has three other co-authors, “examined the environmental and ethical implications of an AI tool used by Google and other technology companies,” NPR reported.
According to NPR, the paper examined a tool that “scans massive amounts of information on the Internet and produces text as if written by a human.” Gebru’s paper raised concern that it could end up replicating hate speech online.
Gebru claims Google bosses asked her to retract it. She then turned to an internal email list to criticize Google, for “silencing marginalized voices,” according to NPR, and for not giving her a clear explanation as to why the paper was censored.
Some photos from the Bloomberg 50 event. Thanks to @dinabass for nominating @jovialjoy and me. The person sitting next to me is one of the founders of the @TIMESUPNOW fund. Is there something like that for tech? If not we should start one. @AnimaAnandkumar @math_rachel? pic.twitter.com/nz0P5RK0t3
— Timnit Gebru (@timnitGebru) December 16, 2018
Platformer obtained Gebru’s email in full as well as Dean’s response. You can read them here.
Her email said in part, “our life gets worse when you start advocating for underrepresented people, you start making the other leaders upset when they don’t want to give you good ratings during calibration. There is no way more documents or more conversations will achieve anything. ”
The email added, “Silencing marginalized voices like this is the opposite of the NAUWU principles which we discussed. And doing this in the context of ‘responsible AI’ adds so much salt to the wounds. I understand that the only things that mean anything at Google are levels, I’ve seen how my expertise has been completely dismissed. But now there’s an additional layer saying any privileged person can decide that they don’t want your paper out with zero conversation. So you’re blocked from adding your voice to the research community — your work which you do on top of the other marginalization you face here. ”
In his own email to employees, also published on Platformer, Dean wrote, in part, “Unfortunately, this particular paper was only shared with a day’s notice before its deadline – we require two weeks for this sort of review – and then instead of awaiting reviewer feedback, it was approved for submission and submitted.
He said the paper didn’t meet Google’s “bar” for publication. “It ignored too much relevant research – for example, it talked about the environmental impact of large models, but disregarded subsequent research showing much greater efficiencies. Similarly, it raised concerns about bias in language models, but didn’t take into account recent research to mitigate these issues, ”Dean’s email said.
He added, “Timnit responded with an email requiring that a number of conditions be met in order for her to continue working at Google, including revealing the identities of every person who Megan and I had spoken to and consulted as part of the review of the paper and the exact feedback. Timnit wrote that if we didn’t meet these demands, she would leave Google and work on an end date. We accept and respect her decision to resign from Google. ”