Casey Newton reported in the Platformer newsletter that Microsoft laid off the ethics and social responsibility team in its Artificial Intelligence division. This is a part of the job-cutting drive that intends to lay off around 10,000 employees through March across all divisions.
5 things to know about the entire fiasco
1. The ethics team included engineers, philosophers, and designers.
2. There were around 30 people in the ethics and society team in 2020 which lowered to around 7 people as a part of organizational restructuring in October.
3. It seems Microsoft does not have a dedicated team to monitor and evaluate AI. However, Newton writes, “Microsoft still maintains an active Office of Responsible AI, which is tasked with creating rules and principles to govern the company’s AI initiatives. The company says its overall investment in responsibility work is increasing despite the recent layoffs.”
4. The company asserted by saying, “Microsoft is committed to developing AI products and experiences safely and responsibly, and does so by investing in people, processes, and partnerships that prioritize this.” Microsoft further adds, “Over the past six years we have increased the number of people across our product teams and within the Office of Responsible AI who, along with all of us at Microsoft, are accountable for ensuring we put our AI principles into practice. […] We appreciate the trailblazing work the ethics and society team did to help us on our ongoing responsible AI journey.”
5. Employees of the ethics and society team maintained that they played an important role in ensuring that the responsible AI principles of Microsoft are essentially reflected in the product designs. An ex-employee said, “People would look at the principles coming out of the office of responsible AI and say, ‘I don’t know how this applies.’” The former employee further added, “Our job was to show them and to create rules in areas where there were none.”
Microsoft had been warned of the dangers of AI-powered chatbots and tools by senior employees taking cues from other such products. However, They do not seem to pay any heed to their concerns as they are continuing to expand Bing AI across all products.