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One of Google Heads Started own AI Research Institute after Being Kicked out

Timnit Gebru, one of the heads of Google ethics in AI team and a leading expert in the field, was fired almost exactly one year ago after issuing a warning email to her colleagues. Now she’s set up business with DAIR, a fresh new research centre devoted to the issues she believed were being overlooked at Google.

According to its press release, the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute is “an independent, community-rooted institute established to oppose Big Tech’s ubiquitous influence on AI research, development, and deployment.”

DAIR will be self-funded and built from the ground up to include and stress different perspectives and examine the procedures employed at firms like Google, Amazon, and Facebook/Meta. The focus will be on academic paper publishing, but without the constant pressures of traditional academics or the paternalistic intervention of a global company. The Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Kapor Center, and the Open Society Foundation have all contributed $3.7 million to the institute so far.

That should be plenty to get started — and the company should compensate its researchers well, ensuring that this type of work is a viable option to working for one of the deep-pocketed firms that commonly support AI research. Safiya Noble, author of “Algorithms of Oppression” and a Macarthur Genius Grant recipient, will serve on DAIR’s advisory committee; we recently hosted her for a panel at TC Sessions: Justice, where she spoke about the dangers of treating technologies as neutral or valuable as they become more widely used and “banal,” when, in fact, this is precisely the time when they should be scrutinised more closely.

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