Xoogler on AI Ethics at the Google: Ethics? Explain, Please

August 8, 2022

I read a write up which seems to be information I have seen cycled and recycled. Nevertheless” “An Engineer Who Was Fired by Google Says Its AI Chatbot Is Pretty Racist’ and That AI Ethics at Google Are a Fig Leaf” contains an interesting observation; to wit:

“These are just engineers, building bigger and better systems for increasing the revenue into Google with no mindset towards ethics,” Lemoine told Insider. “AI ethics is just used as a fig leaf so that Google can say, ‘Oh, we tried to make sure it’s ethical, but we had to get our quarterly earnings,'” he added.

The statement is interesting from several different vantage points:

First, the Xoogler is directing public criticism at the GOOG by linking Google’s approach to ethics to a fig leaf. The metaphor to a fig leaf. Wikipedia points out:

Some paintings and statues have the genitals of their subjects covered by a representation of an actual fig leaf or similar object, either as part of the work or added afterward for perceived modesty.

Yep, perceived modesty and the evocative idea of a cover up.

Second, the recycling of negative comments could create a target for some of Google’s legal eagles.

Third, the allegations about ethics and its possible subordinate role to achieving goals supports assertions offered by Timnit Gebru et al.

Will a burning pile of fig leaves attract attention? Unlikely. Hey, it’s the Google.

Stephen E Arnold, August 8, 2022


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