Google has fired an AI researcher who questioned a well-known document the company published in 2020, the third high-profile termination in less than two years, although the company says its removal is for other reasons.
Satrajit Chatherjee was fired in March after he and his team challenged Google research work for the use of artificial intelligence to make computer chips, according to New York Times. A research paper published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature says that computers can design parts of chips faster than humans.
In an internal email, the 43-year-old Chatterjee disputed some of the newspaper’s allegations, according to the Times. He also questioned whether the technology had been fully tested, the paper said.
In a statement to the Times, Google defended its research paper and practices.
“We have thoroughly reviewed the original Nature document and are supporting the results reviewed by partners,” said Zubin Gahramani, vice president of Google Research, in a statement to the Times. “We also strictly examined the technical claims of the subsequent submission and it did not meet our publishing standards.”
A tweet from Times reporter Daisuke Wakayabashi mentions that one of the newspaper’s authors was harassed by Chatterjee.
Google did not disclose any further details or context about the nature of the harassment, but said it was fired for a reason.
“We are committed to creating an inclusive research environment, so we are firmly committed to our standard of respectful discourse among our researchers,” a Google spokesman said in a statement.
Chatterjee’s dismissal follows two high-profile dismissals on Google AI. In December 2020, the Google department fired Timnit Gebru, one of the leaders of the Ethical AI team, after she published a document identifying the dangers of bias in AI language models. Two months later, Margaret Mitchellwho heads the ethical artificial intelligence team, was fired for violating the company’s code of conduct because she reportedly used automated software to scan her messages to detect discriminatory treatment of Gebru.
Google said Gebru published the document without going through the right channels.
The search giant has placed its research in the field of artificial intelligence at the heart of the company’s reputation for innovation. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said AI would be more important than electricity or fire. The company has integrated AI models into its core search product as a way to provide consumers better results in reducing spam.
Google has rejected an article written by Chatterjee and his team that refutes the original document, according to the Times. Researchers have tried to escalate the problem to the board of Pichai and Alphabet, the newspaper reported.
“In accordance with our principles of artificial intelligence, we also strictly examined the technical requirements of the subsequent submission and it did not meet our standards for publication,” Gahramani said. He went on to say that Google Research is growing and plans to hire more this year than last year.