Microsoft fired a team that guided ethical, responsible, and sustainable AI creation. Platformer revealed that 10,000 company employees were laid off, including the ethics and social team.
The elimination of the team comes as Microsoft invests billions more dollars into its partnership with OpenAI, the startup behind the art- and text-generating AI systems like ChatGPT and DALL-E 2, and revamps its Bing search engine and Edge web browser to be powered by a new, next-generation large language model that is “more powerful than ChatGPT and customized specifically for search.”
At a time when Microsoft is releasing its controversial AI tools to the public, the move questions Microsoft’s dedication to integrating product design and AI principles.
Microsoft’s Office of Responsible AI (ORA) sets AI control and public policy. However, employees told Platformer that the ethics and society team ensured Microsoft’s responsible AI ideals were reflected in product design. The team recently identified risks from Microsoft’s merger of OpenAI’s technology across its products.
After an October reorganization, the ethics and society crew was only about seven people. Platformer sources said CTO Kevin Scott and CEO Satya Nadella were putting pressure on OpenAI to get the latest models and next iterations to customers fast.
The reorganization last year moved most of the ethics and society crew. On March 6, AI company vice president John Montgomery informed the remaining members that they would be eliminated. The team told Platformer they thought they were fired because Microsoft was more concerned with shipping its AI products before the competition than long-term, socially responsible thinking.
Microsoft’s ethics and society section often rein in big tech companies by pointing out potential legal or social consequences. Microsoft may have grown tired of hearing “No” as it sought to steal market share from Google. The firm claimed $2 billion in annual revenue for every 1% market share it could take from Google.