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This article was published on May 4, 2021

Apple snaps up ex-Google AI leader who quit in the wake of Timnit Gebru’s firing

Samy Bengio was a prominent supporter of Gebru and Margaret Mitchell

Apple snaps up ex-Google AI leader who quit in the wake of Timnit Gebru’s firing Image by: Mike Deerkoski

Apple has hired former Google AI scientist Samy Bengio, who resigned from the Big G following the controversial firing of ethics researcher Timnit Gebru.

Bengio will lead a new AI research unit and report to fellow ex-Googler John Giannandrea, Reuters reports.

In his role at Google, Bengio oversaw hundreds of workers and was a strong supporter of Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, who co-led the ethical AI teams before their terminations.

Gebru was fired in December after a fallout with management over a research paper she co-authored on the risks of large-scale language models, which are used in many Google products. Mitchell was sacked in February for using automated scripts to find messages showing mistreatment of Gebru.

[Read: 3 new technologies ecommerce brands can use to connect better with customers]

Their sudden departures sent shockwaves across the AI community and sparked an internal backlash about ethics and diversity.

Bengio was among their most prominent defenders at Google. In a Facebook post published in the wake of Gebru’s firing, he said he was “stunned by what just happened.”

His own responsibilities were cut in the aftermath, when Google reorganized its responsible AI unit and appointed Marian Croak to lead it.

Bengio resigned from Google in March after around 14 years at the company. While he didn’t mention the firings in his farewell letter to staff, sources told Reuters that they influenced his decision to quit.

The distinguished computer scientist, who helped build Google Brain, will now join another tech giant that’s investing heavily in machine learning.

Apple acquired more AI companies than anyone else between 2016 and 2020, according to a recent study by GlobalData. The market research firm said many of the deals were focused on improving Siri.

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