AI Companies Reject Ethics Concerns over Profit Impact Fears

Google fired Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, two women who worked in their ethical AI lab, after Gebru refused to rescind a research paper on the downfalls of language models. Facebook ignored the results its research team compiled because it feared discussion of misinformation would hurt the platform. Apple has ignored how its platform treated men and women differently, giving women access to less credit.

A recent story on asked the question, “So is it even possible to do real AI ethics work inside a corporate tech giant? And how can these teams succeed?” The answers it received were not very encouraging.

“[If] we can’t have open dialogue with leaders of companies about what AI ethics is, we’re not going to make progress in those companies,” Mitchell said.

Executives have to buy into ethics concerns and the teams working on those issues must have some kind of power within the company to make an impact, according to Gebru.

Kathy Baxter, another AI ethics pioneer who launched and currently leads such a team at Salesforce, said she can’t “stress enough the importance of the culture and the DNA. …If you don’t have that idea of stakeholder capitalism and that we’re part of the community that we are selling our products and services to, then I think it’s a much more tenuous place to come from.”

Alice Xiang, who is heading up Sony’s recently launched AI ethics initiatives and said leadership buy-in is “incredibly critical.” She said both the technical and legal executives and the business units actually creating the AI products, all need to be on board.