Microsoft, Meta, Google, Amazon and Twitter all have cut down on their ethics staff, according to the Financial Times.
So-called ‘responsible AI teams” advise on the safety of consumer products that use artificial intelligence and are often an add on to the legal compliance teams.
The big tech companies say they remain dedicated to rolling out safe AI products. But experts said the cuts remain worrying, as potential abuses of the technology are being discovered just as millions of people begin to experiment with AI tools, according to the Financial Times.
The cut down in ethics staff happens at the same time as a lot of experts in ethics, AI, machine learning and related areas are shouting out for a pause in giant AI experiments.
It was the Microsoft-backed company OpenAI who started the irresponsible AI race by the launch of ChatGPT open for everybody. Now, the newest version is a paid-for service. But since then Microsoft, who was voted the most ethical company in the US in 2019, has embedded the service into Bing and other Microsoft products. And we are now seeing rivals such as Google, who had held back their generative AI products because of the ethical risks, has now released it under the name of Google’s Bard.
“It is shocking how many members of responsible AI are being let go at a time when arguably, you need more of those teams than ever,” said Andrew Strait, former ethics and policy researcher at Alphabet-owned DeepMind and associate director at research organisation Ada Lovelace Institute to the Financial Times.
Mid March, Microsoft laid off their ethical team, according to The Platformer.
“The move leaves Microsoft without a dedicated team to ensure its AI principles are closely tied to product design at a time when the company is leading the charge to make AI tools available to the mainstream, current and former employees said,” according to the Platfomer.
Twitter cut more than half of its headcount, when Elon Musk took over including its small ethical AI team.
The time for cutting ethical staff seems to picked at the worst time imaginable.