AI research is a Dumpster Fire and Google’s Holding the Matches

The flood of talent that arrived in the wake of the deep learning explosion also brought a mudslide of bad research, fraud, and corporate greed along with it.

Google, more than any other company, bears responsibility for the modern AI paradigm. That means we need to give big G full marks for bringing natural language processing and image recognition to the masses.

It also means we can credit Google with creating the researcher-eat-researcher environment that has some college students and their big-tech-partnered professors treating research papers as little more than bait for venture capitalists and corporate headhunters.

At the top, Google’s shown its willingness to hire the world’s most talented researchers. And it’s also demonstrated numerous times that it’ll fire them in a heartbeat if they don’t toe the company line.

The company made headlines around the globe after firing Timnit Gebru, a researcher it’d hired to help lead its AI ethics division, in December of 2020. Just a few months later it fired another member of the team, Margaret Mitchell.

Google maintains that the researchers’ work wasn’t up to spec, but both women and numerous supporters claim the firings only occurred after they brought up ethical concerns over research the company’s AI boss, Jeff Dean, had signed off on.

It’s now barely over a year later and history is repeating itself. Google fired another world-renowned AI researcher, Satrajit Chatterjee, after he led a team of scientists in challenging another paper Dean had signed off.

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