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Google AI leader has defected to Apple (arstechnica.com)
97 points by hi5eyes 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 63 comments





The article says he "left Google to protest the company's firings of its own AI ethics researchers" but there's no evidence of that -- for example, his farewell email did not mention that at all, and AFAIK he hasn't made any public statement indicating that that was the reason he left.

Samy said he was stunned by what happened to Timnit Gebru. Given that Google locked Margaret Mitchell out of her own email, I would expect that Samy's ability to email had been restricted as well: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3469738016467233...

He does not need access to corporate email to say that he left in protest. He can post such a statement on Facebook, Twitter, or email reporters from his personal account.

Margaret Mitchell's email was restricted because she was exfiltrating confidential documents en masse

https://www.axios.com/scoop-google-is-investigating-the-acti...


If this is the primary reason, it's kind of strange to choose Apple, a company with a notoriously secretive and authoritarian internal culture.

But arguably fewer ethical problems around their technology itself (setting aside supply chain and business dealings)

Apple cares about ethics though, it's even part of their brand image. Google destroyed that aspect of their brand image with the destruction of "don't be evil".

Apple does not care about ethics. Apple cares about what you think of their ethics depending on which part of the world you live in.

Are there places that leave email open to former employees? Seems like standard practice and the link doesn't say anything about email. What is the story there?

> his farewell email did not mention that at all, and AFAIK he hasn't made any public statement indicating that that was the reason he left.

Why burn bridges?


You can't both protest something and not burn bridges at the same time. You have to choose one or the other.

One can protest something without going scorched-earth. The act of leaving, which deprives Google of his talent and experience, may have been protest enough.

So he didn't want to burn bridges, and told Reuters?

Edit: this is a legitimate question, sorry haters


Specialists have a choice where they go unless their company keeps them contractually under thumb. Let's not use language that implies companies earn/deserve loyalty.

This reads like an ingame cyberpunk event involving a corpo feud.

We’re a desert/Mesa compound, a tactical nuke, an extraction team and a cyberdeck away from being the plot-line for Count Zero.

So Turing-Award-worthy [1] AI researchers each gets the seat in the different big tech?

I cannot help but rootlessly imagine the sifi-like battle royal among them! The climax would be that Bezos flying around in his robot [2] invented by an mysterious teen AI hacker, and that's why Amazon yet to porch any of these shy stars.

Take a seat and have some popcorn!

[1] https://awards.acm.org/about/2018-turing [2] https://youtu.be/8NHwvbVyKi0

----

Edit: Different Bengio :-(


This is a different Bengio: Samy, who is Yoshua's brother.

Oh I see. Thanks for the clarification. Too good to be true :-/

Is he going to hire those fired AI ethics researchers to Apple?

It would be quite hypocritical if he didn't.

Agreed, but that assumes: 1) that he has the power to do so 2) that Mitchell and Gebru want to join Apple

At the moment, we don't know either of these assumptions.


I am assuming that he is joining as a manager, so he can bring candidates in for hiring. Also, surely whatever triggered his Google exit must not be an issue at Apple, since he decided to join there. That should be good enough for the two folks that you mention, no ?

And 3) he is interested in hiring them.

And it would be hypocritical of the fired parties to join a place as restrictive (and oppressive?) as Apple. Not to mentioned the garden, the wall etc.

i'm pretty sure that the way one of those fired ethics researchers exfiltrated data from Google wouldn't fly at Apple, and in general i've never heard about Apple allowing the open discussions like Google.

The fired researchers were getting job offers a few weeks ago: https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/13/22370158/google-ai-ethics...

Has Google provided any evidence of substance regarding the exfiltration of data? The only thing I found is that she queried her own email inbox to find emails where her former coworker was discriminated against: https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/19/22292011/google-second-et...


I don't think that link says the fired researchers are getting job offers? The only mention of job offers I see is Mitchell's tweet, which from the context seems to be about colleagues of hers currently at Google getting offers elsewhere. Basically she thinks there will be more resignations because more people are just now getting alternative offers.

I couldn't find anything online about Gebru or Mitchell actually getting offers, although IIRC Gebru said she has no interest in industry right now anyway.


>Has Google provided any evidence of substance regarding the exfiltration of data?

from your link

"... included the exfiltration of confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees,” Google said in a statement to Axios about Mitchell’s firing."

if Google is making such a statement in such a public way and without evidence, the employee i'd suppose has a good chance of a settlement of a lifetime.


Proving defamation is actually quite hard. You have to prove both the untruthfulness of the statement made and prove that you have sustained monetary damages from it. If you manage to win, you will still likely be on the hook for your own legal fees. Finally, you will never recover the time sunk into this endeavor. For most people, it's simply not worth it.

Monetary damages from a company that just fired you is quite straightforward. And it’s quite simple to prove no data was exfiltrated. So through discovery, get email and network traffic, show no data sent inappropriately.

This does seem like it’s straightforward, if valid. It may take time, but the longer it drags on, the higher the monetary damages.

This is also something where you retain an attorney and go about your life. It’s not like I take an active role in a defamation lawsuit.

Of course it’s not simple, but I think GP’s post is right in that were Google’s public statements wrong, it would be a big settlement. Thus it seems to me that they know what they said and make accurate statements.


Language like "defected" seems inappropriate. What loyalty does an employee owe beyond doing the work that you are paid for and not stealing or violating norms or ethics? "Defecting" implies there is some loyalty owed or betrayal happening.

See also "poached" as if employees are a boar, living on the kings land getting fat for his ultimate consumption.

I always felt that poaching was meant to say more about the poacher than the poached. Rare species in the wild are poached, after all.

> What loyalty does an employee owe beyond doing the work that you are paid for and not stealing or violating norms or ethics?

Weirdly, I do feel some sense of loyalty to some companies and brands - usually stemming from a positive childhood experience. This extends to my first employer: Microsoft. Even though I haven’t worked there for 5 years I still feel as though I owe them for launching my career (making connections, great resume material, etc) and because (all things considered) I think they treated me right - that’s got to be worth something, surely?


I would say that your moral obligation is to speak well of Microsoft when you speak of them - as they treated you well it would be wrong for you to disparage them. You don't have any obligation to work for Microsoft longer than you want to though.

I would consider it a standard of politeness... but is that a moral obligation? What if you were treated very well but quit because you didn't like some of their... secure datacenters?

Given that sort of a conflict can occur, exactly where does this moral obligation stem from?


Maybe to go one step deeper, the moral obligation is to speak honestly and fairly to the extent that one is able, and as their honest impression was positive, then the moral obligation to speak (honestly) positively follows from that.

Oh, of course - I don't mean that I believe Microsoft can do no-wrong: on the contrary, it (hyperbole warning) breaks my heart whenever I see Microsoft do something I feel is morally wrong or otherwise disappointing. Like seeing a loved-one go-off-the-rails, I suppose.

>as they treated you well it would be wrong for you to disparage them

that's somewhere between loyalty and patronage. A moral obligation is to speak the truth, regardless if someone treated you well or not.


Corporations are not people. I'm not talking about politically, I'm talking from a "conscious being" perspective. Do not think of it as a person who consciously did something "for" you. It is nothing more than a hive mind structured to create wealth as efficiently as possible. If it helped you in some way, it wasn't intentionally; it just happened that its own interests overlapped with your own for a blip in time. But the nanosecond that its interests run contrary to yours, it will swiftly trample you into the ground and will be incapable of feeling sorry about it.

Have loyalty for individuals, and sometimes even teams, but never ever ever ever feel loyalty for a corporation.


Agree with your general sentiment, however your wording invites one to play devil's advocate.

>Have loyalty for individuals, and sometimes even teams, but never ever ever ever feel loyalty for a corporation.

That's exactly what an individual would say!

Is it OK to feel loyalty for a nation, then? Considering membership in one is involuntary - and that corporations don't, as a rule, exercise a monopoly on violence against their employees?

>Corporations are not people [...] from a "conscious being" perspective.

>If it helped you in some way, it wasn't intentionally; it just happened that its own interests overlapped with your own for a blip in time.

That depends on your perspective on consciousness and intentionality. I understand that the subject is not open to debate for the majority of individuals here, so I won't bore you with elaborations.

Suffice to say, if you weren't aware of the varying opinions on those, you could start by googling the "Chinese brain" thought experiment.

>But the nanosecond that its interests run contrary to yours, it will swiftly trample you into the ground and will be incapable of feeling sorry about it.

This can be said for sufficiently many individuals that we have a designation for them: psychopaths.

When an individual acts like this, we go out of our way to reproach them. When a corporation does this, it's normal value maximization. A double standard, maybe?

Moreover, humans have kept their place on top of the food pyramid for so long because corporations didn't have nanosecond-scale temporal resolution. However, thanks to the IT community's efforts, this is subject to change.


> Is it OK to feel loyalty for a nation, then?

Einstein had some rather famous words on the topic in (his 1931 essay, Mein Weltbild)[https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/37851/did-einst...]:

> “He who joyfully marches to music rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”


"He who joyfully marches to music rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder. Also, here's how to build a huge-ass bomb."

> Einstein played no role in the Manhattan Project, having been denied a security clearance in July 1940 due to his pacifist tendencies. [...] After World War II, he worked to control nuclear proliferation.

https://www.atomicheritage.org/profile/albert-einstein


You're talking about the principal author of the Einstein–Szilárd letter to FDR. He literally started the Manhattan Project.

Einstein's political and social views evolved throughout his life, something he had in common with many highly intelligent people. As a result, it is possible to quote-mine Einstein to back up almost any point you care to make. This is a perfect example.


If one cane presume that Einstein did not grow wiser with age, then sure, one can use any quote to back up any point you care to make. But if you're being honest about the man and his legacy, I think one should probably stick with his latter-life views.

If one can presume that Einstein did not grow wiser with age, then sure, one can use any quote to back up any point you care to make

Yes, and the people who do so tend to presume just that.

But if you're being honest about the man and his legacy, I think one should probably stick with his latter-life views.

Sure. But my point is that the quote in question was from 1931, only one year before he was forced to flee Germany with a price on his head. Einstein found that while it was easy enough to dismiss national loyalty as an unpleasant artifact of the past, national governments weren't willing to dismiss racism and prejudice in the bargain. Once he understood that whoever got the Bomb first was going to win the war, it was necessary for him to pick a side, and he did just that.

After the war was won by the good guys, there was plenty of time for second-guessing and self-flagellation, and he did his share of that, too. He had the luxury of pacifism in 1951 just as he did in 1931.


You only owe them if they didn't get their money's worth.

I didn’t realize gratitude was a fungible commodity.

Check your employment contract. Every company I've ever worked-for (including msft) all had the "The value of the company's goodwill is $0.00 USD" in it somewhere.

...insofar as gratitude and goodwill are interchangeable. Hmm, I wonder what the exchange-rate is...


Indeed. To complete the picture, Apple gave asylum. And Google denounced the employee as a traitor and recalled their ambassador to Apple. /s

Totally agree. No company will think twice of their employees before terminating their employment, inspite of all the "family" talk.

This irks me more than anything.

Why should the employee give 2 weeks notice but the employer can unemploy you between 11am and noon? I know it’s professional. So, let’s do the professional thing - give me 2 weeks of notice or 2 weeks of pay if you’re concerned about security.

There are all kinds of asymmetries. 55 mins to interview the candidate, btw do you have any questions for us? You’ve got 5 mins.


One justification for companies to do this, is to ensure the employee doesn't damage the company property or reputation. An employee told 2 weeks in advance that he will be sacked is a dangerous mind.

What i never understand though, is companies forcing employees to train their replacements, after which they are fired.

Perhaps companies ought to publicize their employees records or performance, if only limited to qualitative ones, so that during quit time, employees are not blackmailed for getting a good record of employment.


Agreed. It also implies that the original "state" thinks it is illegitimate. Like immigrating between countries is fine. Becoming a diplomat, moving countries, and permanently leaving the embassy is more of a defection.

"Poaching" is the most egregious and telling.

I'm tired of everyone being obsessed with terminology. Maybe it's just a colorful turn of phrase eh?

Thank you. I could not agree more strongly.

I am loyal to myself as an employee unless my equity is so significant that I am required to consider myself an owner.


That's what make the title more exciting for humans. People still seeing life as a set of interesting stories, it's more attractive to write otherwise boring trivia as such.

It's like a financial newspaper writing about bulls struggling to beat the bears, while obviously no one wants to pay higher prices or selling at lower prices: nobody is winning or losing, it's just people buying or selling along demand and offer lines, quite chaotically. But, seeing the market as a permanent war between bulls (who would want to buy at higher prices for some reason) and bears (who would want to sell low) makes for an amusing entertainment in an otherwise bland day.


I would have gone with the more tastefull dr Frankenstein running from his monster analogy.

I subscribe to the FT and that’s not my impression of their writing at all.

Financial news is like Facebook: if it’s free then you’re the product.


[flagged]


Parent is spam. I don't have enough karma to flag it, but let's not give it any clicks.



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