Another Firing Among Google’s A.I. Brain Trust, and More Discord

Less than two years after Google fired two researchers for criticizing biases in artificial intelligence systems, the company fired a researcher who questioned a paper published on a special type of artificial intelligence used to make computer chips.

Researcher Satrajit Chatterjee led a team of scientists to challenge the famous research paper, which was published last year in the scientific journal Nature, and said that computers are capable of designing certain parts of a computer chip faster and better than a human.

Dr. Chatterjee, 43, was fired in March after Google told his team it would not publish a paper refuting some of the claims made in nature. Shortly afterwards, four people familiar with the situation said they were allowed to speak out. Was not. Google confirmed in a written statement that Dr. Chatterjee was “finished with reason.”

Google Dr. Chatterjee’s dismissal, but fully defended the research he criticized and his reluctance to publish his assessment.

“We have thoroughly examined the original Nature paper and are standing by the peer-reviewed results,” said Zoubin Gahramani, vice president of Google Research, in a written statement. “We have also scrutinized the technical claims of subsequent submissions, and they do not meet our standards for publication.”

Dr. Chatterjee’s dismissal was the latest example of the controversy surrounding Google Brain, the AI ​​research group that is the key to the company’s future. After spending billions of dollars hiring top researchers and building new types of computer automation, Google has struggled with various complaints about how it builds, uses and depicts those technologies.

The tensions between Google’s AI researchers reflect the many major conflicts across the tech industry, with numerous questions posed by new AI technologies and thorny social issues that have entangled these technologies and the people who make them.

The recent controversy also follows a familiar pattern of dismissal and duel claims among Google’s AI researchers, a growing concern for the company, which has staked its future on the use of artificial intelligence in all its functions. Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet, compared AI to the advent of lightning or fire, calling it one of the most important endeavors of mankind.

Google Brain started as a side project more than a decade ago when a team of researchers created a system that learned to recognize cats in YouTube videos. Google executives were taken with the possibility that machines could learn skills on their own, they quickly expanded the lab, laying the groundwork for rebuilding the company with this new artificial intelligence. The research group became a symbol of the company’s grand ambitions.

Before she was fired, Dr. Gabru was seeking permission to publish a research paper on how AI-based language systems, including technologies developed by Google, could use biased and hateful language they learn from texts in books and websites. Dr. Gabru said she was outraged by Google’s response to such complaints, including its refusal to publish the paper.

A few months later, the company fired another head of the team, Margaret Mitchell, who was fired by Google. Gabru. The company said that Dr. Mitchell violated his code of conduct.

Paper in Nature, published last June, promoted a technology called Reinforcement Learning, which the paper says could improve the design of computer chips. The technology has been hailed as a breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence and a comprehensive refinement of existing approaches to chip design. Google said it used the technique to develop its own chips for artificial intelligence computing.

Google has been working on implementing machine learning techniques in chip design for years, and published a similar paper a year ago. At the time, Google Chatterjee, who holds a doctorate in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley and worked as a research scientist at Intel, said people familiar with the matter said the approach could be sold or licensed to a chip design company. .

But Dr. Chatterjee expressed reservations in an internal email about some of the paper’s claims and questioned whether the technology had been rigorously tested, the three said.

While the discussion was going on about that research, Google released another paper for nature. For submissions, Google made some adjustments in the previous paper and deleted the names of two authors, who were Drs. Worked closely with. Chatterjee and Paper also expressed concern about the main claims, people said.

When the new paper was published, some Google researchers were surprised. He believed he had not followed the publishing approval process that led to the company’s senior vice president, Jeff Dean, who oversees most of his AI efforts, said Dr. Gabru’s firing, people said.

Anna Goldie, one of the two leading authors of Google and the paper, who co-authored it with fellow computer scientist Azalia Mirhosey, said changes to the previous paper did not require a full approval process. Google Dr. Chatterjee and a handful of internal and external researchers worked on a paper that challenged some of his claims.

The team submitted a rebuttal to the so-called resolution committee for publication approval. Months later, the paper was rejected.

Researchers working on the Ribble Paper said they had raised the issue with Mr. Board of Directors of Pichai and Alphabet. They argued that Google’s decision not to publish the rebuttal violated its own AI principles, including maintaining high standards of scientific excellence. Immediately, Dr. People said Chatterjee was informed that he was no longer an employee.

Ms. Goldie said that Dr. Chatterjee was asked to manage his project in 2019 and he refused. When he later criticized her, she said, he could not support her complaints and ignored the evidence he presented in response.

“Sat Chatterjee has been campaigning for the last two years to spread false information against me and Azalia,” she said. Goldie said in a written statement.

She said the work was peer-reviewed by Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific publications. And she added that Google used their methods to create new chips and these chips are currently used in Google’s computer data centers.

Laurie M. Burgess, Dr. Chatterjee’s lawyer said it was “disappointing” that “some of the authors of the Nature Paper were trying to stop the scientific discussion by defaming and attacking Dr. Chatterjee just to get scientific transparency. Ms. Burgess also questioned Dr.’s leadership. Dean, one of the 20 co-authors of the Nature Paper.

“Jeff Dean’s actions to suppress the release of all relevant experimental data, not only data that support his favorable hypothesis, should be very disturbing for both the scientific community and the wider community using Google services and products,” Ms. Burgess said.

Dr. D did not respond to a request for comment.

Controversy erupted in the global community of researchers who specialize in chip design after the Ribtal paper was shared with scholars and other experts outside of Google.

Chip maker Nvidia says it has used methods similar to Google’s for chip design, but some experts are unsure what Google’s research means for the big tech industry.

“If this is working really well, it will be a great thing,” said Jens Lienig, a professor at the University of Dresden in Germany, referring to the AI ​​technology described in Google’s paper. “But it’s not clear if it’s working.”

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