Microsoft fired its entire AI ethics and society team
“Microsoft fired their AI safety team?,” that was the question Elon Musk asked on Twitter following a Platformer report that “Microsoft laid off its entire ethics and society team within the artificial intelligence organization as part of recent layoffs that affected 10,000 employees across the company.”
Citing former current and former employees, Platformer said Microsoft’s recent decision has resulted in the absence of a specialized team responsible for ensuring that its AI principles are integrated into product design. This development comes at a crucial juncture when the company is spearheading efforts to democratize AI tools.
Despite the recent layoffs, the report added that Microsoft continues to maintain its Office of Responsible AI, which is responsible for establishing regulations and principles to govern the company’s AI initiatives. Microsoft asserts that its commitment to promoting responsibility in AI is growing, despite the reduction in the workforce.
“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,” the company said in a statement. “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.”
However, Microsoft employees said the ethics and society team played a critical role in ensuring that the company’s responsible AI principles are actually reflected in the design of the products that ship.
“People would look at the principles coming out of the office of responsible AI and say, ‘I don’t know how this applies,’” one former employee told Platformer. “Our job was to show them and to create rules in areas where there were none.”
Arstechnica, a popular tech media outlet, also picked up the Platformer story, adding that “Expert calls the decision “damning,” and saying it’s time for regulators to get involved.”
Following the Platformer’s report, Arstechnica reached out to Microsoft. The Redmond-based tech giant said that it remains “committed to developing AI products and experiences safely and responsibly, and does so by investing in people, processes, and partnerships that prioritize this.”
Microsoft fired their AI safety team?https://t.co/bp5vde1clm
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 16, 2023