Prominent Google Brain manager Samy Bengio has quit the company months after 2 fellow AI researchers were fired

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A prominent manager at Google Brain, the tech giant’s artificial intelligence research division, has quit the company following months of internal discord.

Samy Bengio, an AI research manager at the company and world-leading academic in his field, announced his departure on Tuesday, in an email obtained by Bloomberg. 

His resignation comes after Timnit Gebru, a high-profile Black researcher in ethical AI, was ousted from Google, triggering a flurry of debate about AI research and racism. Gebru was fired in December 2020, after an apparent fallout with management over a research paper she had co-authored on the risks of algorithmic bias. 

Another researcher on the team, Margaret Mitchell, was subsequently fired for what Google described as “multiple violations” of its rules. In the run-up to her sacking, Mitchell said on Twitter she had tried “to raise concerns about race & gender inequity, and speak up about Google’s problematic firing of Dr. Gebru.”

Both women previously reported to Bengio before they were fired, and his department was subsequently reorganized to place Mariam Croak in charge. 

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“While I am looking forward to my next challenge, there’s no doubt that leaving this wonderful team is really difficult,” Bengio wrote in his email to colleagues, which did not directly reference the recent events with Gebru and Mitchell. 

He added: “I learned so much with all of you, in terms of machine learning research of course, but also on how difficult yet important it is to organize a large team of researchers so as to promote long term ambitious research, exploration, rigor, diversity and inclusion.”

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At the time of Gebru’s firing, Bengio had written on Facebook that he was “stunned” by what had happened.

Shortly after news broke of Bengio’s departure, Mitchell tweeted: “Resignations coming now bc people started interviewing soon after we were fired.

“There is keen interest in responsible/ethical AI outside of Google, so people we worked with have a lot of options. The job offers are just starting now; more resignations are likely.” 

Insider approached Google for comment. 

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