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Microsoft lays off ethical team that critically assessed AI tools like ChatGPT

A report notes that Microsoft maintains an active Office of Responsible AI, whose task is to create rules and principles to govern the company's AI initiatives. However, members of the team have laid off.

By Mathew KarnalPublished about a year ago 3 min read

Microsoft has reportedly laid off the entire "ethics and society" team within the AI organization as a part of recent layoffs that impacted 10,000 workers globally. According to the Platformer, the move leaves Microsoft without a dedicated team that ensures its AI principles closely tied to product design are being followed. The latest round of layoffs also comes at a time when the company is aggressively expanding in-house generative AI, Bing AI.

The report notes that Microsoft maintains an "active Office of Responsible AI, whose task is to create rules and principles to govern the company's AI initiatives." In a statement, the company reportedly said that it was committed to developing AI-powered products by "investing in people, processes, and partnerships." The statement does not clarify whether employees from the ethics team are laid off, but claims that the department increased "the number of people across our product teams and within the Office of Responsible AI."

Platformer also spoke to some former workers, who said that the ethics and society team played a critical role in ensuring that Microsoft products reflect the company's principles. The team also reportedly designed a role-playing game called Judgement Day to help designers and team members learn the "potential harm" products can do. More recently, the team has reportedly been working to identify risks posed by Microsoft's use of OpenAI's GPT-3 technology across its products, Microsoft Edge, Skype, and Bing.

Microsoft announced that the company would lay off 10,000 employees, and many in the US and India have been impacted. Many have been laid off from the company after years of experience.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is aggressively expanding its Bing AI across products, and the company along with OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT chatbot, will unveil GPT-4 this week. GPT-4 will be the successor of the GPT-3 language module that powers ChatGPT. The new-gen language module is even capable of creating videos with simple text inputs in English. Recently, the company added Bing AI built on the proprietary Prometheus was added to search on Windows 11 taskbar so that more users can use its AI-powered tools.

Platform notes that Microsoft employees warned senior members last year about the harms AI tools, such as DALL-E, could have on artists' livelihoods. A similar concern was raised for Bing AI. Unlike ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing chat provides citations to help customers know the source of information and not steal traffic from other websites.

Recent reports have revealed that Microsoft has laid off its entire ethics and society team, which was part of the artificial intelligence organization. The layoffs, affecting 10,000 employees across the company, have left Microsoft without a dedicated team to ensure that its AI principles are closely aligned with product design. This is a critical concern as the company is leading the effort to make AI tools available to the mainstream.

Despite the layoffs, Microsoft still maintains an Office of Responsible AI, which is responsible for creating rules and principles to govern the company’s AI initiatives. Microsoft claims that its overall investment in responsibility work is increasing, as the company remains committed to developing AI products and experiences safely and responsibly. According to Microsoft, the company has increased the number of people across its product teams and within the Office of Responsible AI who are accountable for ensuring that AI principles are put into practice.

However, employees have expressed concern that the ethics and society team played a vital role in ensuring that the company's responsible AI principles are reflected in the design of the products that are released. It remains to be seen how the absence of the ethics and society team will impact Microsoft's AI development and deployment.

Critics have argued that without a dedicated team, there is a risk that AI tools could cause harm or perpetuate bias, particularly as AI becomes more integrated into various industries and societal systems. The ethics and society team played a critical role in assessing the ethical implications of AI systems and ensuring that they align with ethical standards and human values.

As an AI language model, I understand the importance of ethical considerations in the development and deployment of AI systems. It is crucial to ensure that AI is developed in a way that benefits society as a whole, rather than just a select few. With the absence of a dedicated ethics and society team, Microsoft may face challenges in identifying potential ethical concerns and ensuring that its AI systems are aligned with ethical principles.

Overall, it will be important for Microsoft to remain committed to responsible AI development and deployment, and to prioritize the integration of ethical considerations into all aspects of its AI initiatives.

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