Home / Technology / Google offered a professor $ 60,000, but he declined. Here’s why

Google offered a professor $ 60,000, but he declined. Here’s why



He bet on the award, he said, “because of my feeling at the time that Google was building a very strong, potentially industry-leading ethical AI team.”

Soon after, this feeling began to disappear. In early December, Timnit left Gebru, co-leader of Google’s ethics AI team and a prominent black woman in a largely white, male field, Google. On Wednesday, December 2, she tweeted that she had been “immediately fired” for an email she sent to an internal mailing list. In the email, she expressed dismay at the ongoing lack of diversity in the company and frustration over an internal process related to the review of a then unpublished research paper on the risks of building ever-larger AI language models ̵
1; a buzzing kind of AI that is becoming increasingly important to Google huge search activity.

At the time, Gebru said Google AI management asked her to withdraw the paper from review for presentation at a conference, or remove her name from it. Google said it accepted Gebru’s resignation because of a list of requirements she had sent via email that had to be met in order for her to continue working for the company.

Gebru’s expulsion started a month-long crisis for the company, including resignations, a change of leadership and an apology from Google’s CEO for how the circumstances of Gebru’s resignation prompted some employees to question their place there. Google conducted an internal investigation into the case, and the results were announced the same day that the company fired Gebru’s team leader, Margaret Mitchell, who had been consistently critical of the company on Twitter after Gebru’s exit. (Google cited “several violations” of its code of conduct.) Meanwhile, researchers outside Google, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence, have become increasingly skeptical of the company’s historically reputable scholarships and angry at the treatment of Gebru and Mitchell.

All of this came into sharp focus for Stark on Wednesday, March 10, when Google sent him a congratulatory note giving him $ 60,000 for his proposal for a research project that would look at how companies roll out AI used to detect emotions. Stark said he immediately felt he needed to turn down the award in order to show his support for Gebru and Mitchell, as well as those still on the ethical AI team at Google.

“My first thought was, ‘I have to reject it,'” Stark told CNN Business.

Luke Stark rejected a $ 60,000 research award from Google in support of the deposed leaders of the ethical AI group.
Stark is among a growing number of people in academia who cite the exits of Gebru and Mitchell for recent decisions to lose funding or opportunities that the company provides. Some AI conference organizers are considering having Google as a sponsor. And at least one academic who has received a major check from Google in the past has since stated that he will not seek financial support until changes have been made to the company.

“With a clear conscience, I can no longer accept funding from a company that treats its employees this way,” Vijay Chidambaram, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies storage systems, told CNN Business. Chidambaram previously received $ 30,000 from Google in 2018 for a research project.

The money involved is of little importance to Google. But the growing fallout from Google’s tensions with the ethical AI team now poses a risk to the company’s reputation and growth in the AI ​​community. This is crucial as Google is fighting for talent – both as employees of the company and names associated with it in the academic community.

“I think this is more widespread than even the company is aware of,” Stark said.

Decline in solidarity

Despite his initial inclination, Stark did not immediately deny Google’s award. He talked to colleagues about what he planned to do – “People supported what decision I made,” he said – before sending Google his answer the following Friday. He thanked the company for the “vote of confidence” in the research, but wrote that he “rejected this award in solidarity with Dr. Gebru and Mitchell, their teammates and all those who have been in similar situations”, according to an email shown by CNN Business.

TikTok strengthened these plus big women, and then took down some of their posts.  They still do not know why

“I look forward to working with Google Research again as soon as the organization and its leaders have reflected on their decision in this matter, addressed the damage they have caused, and committed, in word and deed, to promote critical research and products. which supports justice, ”Stark wrote.

He tweeted about his decision to reject the award as well, to make it public, noting that many people cannot afford to reject such funding from Google or other companies. Stark is able to give up the money because his department at Western University is adequately funded. The award from Google would have given extra research money, he said.
“All we can do is what we can reasonably do – and this was something I felt I could do,” Stark tweeted.

Gebru said she appreciated Stark’s action.

“It’s a pretty big deal for someone to reject Google sponsorship,” she told CNN Business. “Especially someone who is early in their career.”

A Google spokesman said that in the last 15 years, the company has provided over 6,500 academic and research grants to those outside Google. Stark is the first person to say no, according to the spokesperson.

“It was a real failure as they were treated”

Still, Stark’s decision is just the latest show of solidarity with Gebru and Mitchell.

The first obvious sign of anger came shortly after Gebru left Google. A media post that rejected his resignation and demanded transparency about Google’s decision on the research task, quickly received signatures from Google employees and supporters in the field and AI at the end of March, the number of supporters had swelled to almost 2700 Google employees and over 4300 others.
Google is aware that its reputation for AI research has recently been damaged, and has said it intends to fix it.
In early March, the conference that Gebru and her co-authors had submitted the paper, the ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, or FAccT, stopped its sponsorship agreement with Google. Gebru is one of the founders of the conference, and served as a member of the FAccT’s first executive committee. Google had been a sponsor every year since the annual conference began in 2018. Michael Ekstrand, co-chair of the ACM FAccT Network, confirmed to CNN Business that the sponsorship was stopped and said that the initiative was determined to be “for the good of society” and that the group will “revise” its sponsorship policy for 2022. Ekstrand said that Gebru was not involved in the decision.
Also in March, two academics protested Google’s actions by tweeting that they had decided not to attend an invitation-based robotics research event held online. Hadas Kress-Gazit, a professor of Cornell robotics, was one of them; she said she was invited in January, but became more reluctant as the incident approached.

“It was a real failure [Gebru and Mitchell] was treated. No one apologized to them yet, “she told CNN Business in a recent interview. I do not want to interact with companies that behave this way towards top researchers. ”

Google’s efforts to push boundaries in AI

Google is aware that its reputation as a research institution has been damaged in recent months, and the company has said it intends to fix it. In a recent town hall meeting on Google, which Reuters first reported on and CNN Business also received word from, the company outlined changes it makes to its internal research and publication practices.

“I think the way to regain trust is to continue to publish groundbreaking work in many, many areas, including pushing the boundaries of responsible AI-related topics, publishing things that are deeply interesting to the research community, I think is one of the best ways to continue to be a leader in the field of research, “said Jeff Dean, Google’s Head of AI. He answered an employee’s question regarding external researchers and said they would read articles from Google “with more skepticism now.”

Google is trying to end the controversy over its ethical AI team.  It's not going well

Gebru hopes that, like the FAccT, more conferences will reassess their relationship with the technology companies’ research laboratories. Historically, much of the work of developing and studying AI has been done in an academic setting. But as companies have found more and more commercial use for the technology, the lines between academia have become blurred. Google is just one of many technology companies that have great influence over academic conferences that publish many of the researchers’ articles; Its employees sit on conference boards, and it sponsors many conferences each year, sometimes for tens of thousands of dollars.

For example, Google and some subsidiaries of the parent company Alphabet were listed as sponsors at the $ 20,000 “platinum” and $ 10,000 “gold” level at the International Conference on Machine Learning, or ICML, and the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, or NeurIPS, in 2020 – both major AI conferences. And some of the company’s employees sit on the organizing committees.

ICML President John Langford said the conference is “currently open for sponsorship” by Google for the July 2021 conference.

“There is a lot of discussion going on about how ICML as a conference should encourage a good machine learning culture and practice with future sponsorship policies as part of the discussion,” he added.

NeurIPS CEO Mary Ellen Perry said the conference has not yet made its annual call for sponsorship, but that requests “will be considered against a set of selection guidelines in place by this year’s sponsor chairs”; NeurIPS is scheduled for December.

For Stark and others in the academic research community, however, their criteria for accepting funding from Google has already changed.

“Extra research money would be good,” Stark said. “But there was something I felt I just could not take.”




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