Luke Stark, an assistant research professor associated with Western University in Ontario, Canada applied for a Google Research Scholar Award of up to $60,000 with an aim that the tech giant will financially help those who are starting their careers. His area of specialization was artificial intelligence. The application was sent by him in late November. He was quite hopeful given the fact that Google was itself preparing a learned and educational AI team. However, that wasn’t the case.
Coming close to the proximity of how co-leader of Google’s ethical AI team namely Timnit Genru has expressed her anguish that she has been mostly sidelined in important matters. Being the only Black women in the predominantly white fields of males, she expressed her concern in an email where she spoke about the need for the company to accept diverse views. Due to the email which she sent to an internal mailing list, she was fired immediately. Additionally, she also objected to the functioning of an internal process related to an un-published research paper where she speaks about the associated risks of building AI language models. She views that AI is very important to give a head start for Google in terms of its search business.
This was the time when Google told her to either take the research papers back or remove her name.
However the lady preferred to resign in view of the demands which she made it compulsory to be met if she was to work in the company.
Genru’s disassociation created several months of speculations where CEO has also issued an apology. Right at the internal meeting of Google, her team leader Margaret Mitchell was fired.
Two dual actions created distrust with researchers and questioned the scholarships while showing extreme concern over the treatment meted to the two.
Google in order to re-instate the team members sent a note congratulating Stark about accepting the proposal while offering $60,000 for the proposal.
However, it took no time for Stark to stand in solidarity with Genru and Mitchell and rejected the proposal
The feeling is sinking by many including Stark that the recent ouster is seen as an action by Google to forfeit funding. On the same lines, AI conference organizers are also strategizing whether they should keep Google as a sponsor.
There has also been the reaction of a person namely Vijay Chidambaram who has previously received funding of $30,000 in 2018, but he doesn’t want to accept the same for a research project, in solidarity.
Stark has talked with his colleagues about the possible action he should take as there have been mixed reactions from them who were either way supportive for whatever action he takes.
However, he made a firm decision by sending his response to Google where he clearly mentioned that he is declining the award for standing with Drs. Gebru and Mitchell along with various people who have meted the same fate. He is hopeful of collaborating with Google Research in future but not at this time, where he has to show his humane side.