Big Tech cuts to AI Ethics staff

With a new host of generative AI available to us, such as the popular ChatGPT developed by OpenAI and Google’s Bard, there should be sufficient ethical and safety frameworks to effectively safeguard users.

As recently reported by the Financial Times, a range of the biggest tech companies made several redundancies to cut costs in 2023, inclusive of staff overseeing AI ethics. Microsoft, Twitter, Google, Amazon and Meta have all followed suit, which arises concerns about long-term ethical safety.

I feel it is not sensible for the biggest tech players to remove responsible AI staff at a period where it seems to be required the most. But, is this a rational business decision where AI ethics could take a backseat amidst the current economic climate?

That’s a great point to draw attention to, and sadly I expect you are right that there is not enough focus on ethics and controls in the use of AI, and even if there was, I wonder how effective any controls can be as a rogue firm in another jurisdiction or on the dark web can just circumvent them. Companies can at least take responsibility for their own products and services sufficiently. The development of ethics in AI will be an interesting topic to follow in the coming years.

Despite the economic climate, it is so important that companies prioritize ethical considerations in the development and implementation of AI systems, given their growing influence in our lives. In fact, the recent controversies surrounding Facebook’s algorithmic amplification of harmful content and Google’s use of AI in military contracts highlight the urgent need for ethical safeguards in AI even more so!

As AI anxiety spreads, Washington has been pressuring Big Tech CEOs to ensure their products are safe. Kamala paid visits to Microsoft, Open Ai and Anthropic last week!

And going back to jobs at risk - IBM recently announced a temporary pause in hiring for approximately 8,000 positions that could potentially be automated by AI. The company believes that AI has the potential to replace almost a third of its non-customer-facing positions. Experts estimate that AI could affect up to 300 million jobs worldwide, while Goldman Sachs predicts that AI could contribute to a 7% increase in global GDP.

Could it be growth at the cost of stability?