Almost exactly one year ago, Timnit Gebru, one of the leaders of Google’s ethics in AI team and one of the foremost experts in that topic, was fired after sending an email of concern to her team. Now she has set up shop herself with a brand new research institute, DAIR, focused on the topics she felt were being sidelined at Google.
The Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute is “an independent, community rooted institute set to counter Big Tech’s pervasive influence on the research, development and deployment of AI,” according to its announcement press release.
Built from the start to include and emphasize diverse perspectives and question the processes used at companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook/Meta, DAIR will be independently funded. The focus will be on publishing papers in the academic realm but without either the relentless pressure of traditional academia or the paternalistic interference of a global corporation hanging over the researchers.
“I’ve been frustrated for a long time about the incentive structures that we have in place and how none of them seem to be appropriate for the kind of work I want to do,” Gebru told The Washington Post.
So far the institute has raised $3.7 million, from the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Kapor Center and the Open Society Foundation. That ought to be enough to get started — and pay its researchers well, ensuring that this type of work is a realistic alternative to…