Google AI manager resigns following controversial firings of two top researchers

A Google researcher manager has resigned following the controversial firings of two female leaders in his organization. Samy Bengio, who oversaw the ethical AI team prior to a reorganization in February, is leaving to pursue other opportunities, according to Bloomberg. His last day will be April 28th.

Bengio was a strong advocate of star AI ethics researchers Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, who previously co-led the ethical AI team. Gebru was fired in December while working on a paper about the dangers of large language models. Mitchell was terminated in February after using a script to search her emails for evidence of discrimination against Gebru.

In a statement on Facebook in the wake of the firing, Bengio said he was “stunned” by what happened to Gebru.

The terminations sparked outrage across the tech industry, leading multiple researchers to decline funding or other opportunities from Google. Two Google engineers also quit the company in protest, citing Gebru’s firing as a primary reason for their resignations.

After Gebru’s departure, Google reorganized its research department, slotting the ethical AI team under Marian Croak, a leader in the engineering department. The move cut Bengio’s responsibilities, according to Bloomberg.

In his farewell letter to staff, Bengio reportedly said that while he was looking forward to his next challenge, leaving Google Brain was difficult. “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,” he wrote. He did not mention the firings of Gebru or Mitchell.