Microsoft’s commitment to ethical and responsible AI has been brought into question following the company’s decision to lay off its entire ethics and society team. The move, which affected just seven members of staff, came as part of a larger round of layoffs that saw 10,000 employees lose their jobs.
According to a report by Platformer, the ethics and society team was responsible for the implementation of Microsoft’s AI principles. The team would evaluate any risks associated with integrating OpenAI’s technology into the company’s suite of products. While Microsoft continues to maintain its Office of Responsible AI, which focuses on governance and public policy work, the decision to eliminate the ethics and society team has raised concerns about the company’s commitment to responsible AI.
Microsoft’s Investment in OpenAI
The move comes at a time when Microsoft is investing billions of dollars into its partnership with OpenAI, the startup behind popular AI systems such as ChatGPT and DALL-E 2. The company has also revamped its Bing search engine and Edge web browser (under testing) to be powered by a new, next-generation large language model that is “more powerful than ChatGPT and customized specifically for search.”
The Platformer report suggests that pressure from the chief technology officer Kevin Scott and CEO Satya Nadella was a key factor in the decision to eliminate the ethics and society team. Microsoft is visibly keen to get its AI products into the hands of customers as quickly as possible. The company has a rare chance to challenge Google’s dominance in the search engine market.
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