‘There was all sorts of toxic behaviour’: Timnit Gebru on her sacking by Google, AI’s dangers and big tech’s biases

  • May 22, 2023
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The Ethiopian-born computer scientist lost her job after pointing out the inequalities built into AI. But after decades working with technology companies, she knows all too much about discrimination

‘It feels like a gold rush,” says Timnit Gebru. “In fact, it is a gold rush. And a lot of the people who are making money are not the people actually in the midst of it. But it’s humans who decide whether all this should be done or not. We should remember that we have the agency to do that.”

Gebru is talking about her specialised field: artificial intelligence. On the day we speak via a video call, she is in Kigali, Rwanda, preparing to host a workshop and chair a panel at an international conference on AI. It will address the huge growth in AI’s capabilities, as well as something that the frenzied conversation about AI misses out: the fact that many of its systems may well be built on a huge mess of biases, inequalities and imbalances of power.

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