Microsoft’s commitments to AI ethics have been questioned after it laid off a team that was responsible for ensuring privacy, transparency and security in AI innovation. The company’s decision not to retain its AI ethics team is particularly concerning given the rapid growth of ChatGPT-powered AI within its software products.
TechCrunch has learned that Microsoft’s commitment towards ethical and responsible AI practices is under fire after it was reported that the company had disbanded a team that guided ethical AI innovation. Platformer reports that the recent round of layoffs which affected 10,000 employees resulted in the removal of the ethics team.
Microsoft’s Office of Responsible AI, which establishes rules for responsible AI development through governance work and public policy work is still in existence. The ethics and society team responsible for ensuring that Microsoft’s responsible AI principles are reflected in product design has been dissolved. This group was tasked with identifying potential dangers that could be caused by Microsoft’s adoption OpenAI technology in a variety of its products.
During the last year’s reorganization, the majority of employees involved in AI ethics were transferred to other departments within the company. John Montgomery, corporate vice-president of AI, informed all remaining candidates that they would lose their jobs on March 6. Platformer heard from team members that they felt let go by Microsoft because it seemed less concerned about long-term, responsible thinking. Instead, it aimed to ship AI products faster than the competition.
Microsoft invests billions in its partnership with OpenAI, which sees the elimination of the ethics team.
OpenAI has been working on multiple AI models and systems such as ChatGPT, DALL-E 2, and DALL-E 2. Microsoft recently integrated OpenAI technology in its Bing search engine, Edge browser and Edge web browser. It used a new AI model that was “more powerful than ChatGPT” and tailored specifically for search, but it has been giving users erratic answers.
Microsoft’s AI ethics principles are to ensure that the technology is transparent, fair, secure, safe, and respectful of privacy. Microsoft has also created the AI for Earth program that aims at using AI to solve environmental problems and the AI for Accessibility programme, which aims at using AI to empower people with disabilities.