Microsoft has laid off its entire ethics and society team dedicated to ensuring artificial intelligence (AI) innovations that are ethical, responsible and sustainable, the media reported. The layoffs at the AI ethics team are part of larger job cuts (10,000 employees) the tech giant announced earlier.
According to a report in Platformer, citing sources, the move leaves “Microsoft without a dedicated team to ensure its AI principles are closely tied to product design at a time when the company is leading the charge to make AI tools available to the mainstream.”
Microsoft still has an active Office of Responsible AI. “Microsoft is committed to developing AI products and experiences safely and responsibly, and does so by investing in people, processes, and partnerships that prioritise this,” the company said in a statement.
However, employees said that the ethics and society team played a key role in ensuring that responsible AI principles are reflected in its products. According to the report, the team has been working to identify risks posed by Microsoft’s adoption of OpenAI’s technology throughout its bouquet of products like Bing Search engine.
The ethics and society team had around 30 employees including engineers, designers, and philosophers in 2020. In October, the team was cut to roughly seven people as part of a reorganisation, said the report.