Why Meta and Twitter’s AI and ML layoffs matter | The AI Beat

by | Nov 14, 2022 | Technology

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Ten days ago, as part of mass Twitter layoffs, the company’s entire ethical artificial intelligence (AI) team — which worked to make Twitter’s algorithms more transparent and fair — was let go. The team, called ML Ethics, Transparency, and Accountability, was led by Rumman Chowdhury, who is well known for her leadership in the field of applied algorithmic ethics. 

Meanwhile, Meta’s layoffs last week of 11,000 employees, or 13% of the company’s workforce, included an entire 50-person research team focused on machine learning (ML) infrastructure, called Probability. The Probability team was made up of 19 people doing Bayesian modeling, 9 people doing ranking and recommendations, 5 people doing ML efficiency, 17 people doing AI for chip design and compilers, as well as managers, according to one researcher on the team. 

Both sets of layoffs matter, say experts, because they signal a shift in the landscape of even the most sought-after AI and ML talent, as well as a reckoning for Big Tech and enterprise business in terms of how they respond regarding their own responsible AI efforts. 

Georgios Gousios, head of research at software company Endor Labs and associate professor at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, told VentureBeat by email that Meta’s Probability team was the “equivalent of an elite army tactical squad.” 

Gousios, who worked on the Probability team from October 2020 to February 2022, said while Facebook had a lot of developers working on various parts of the tech stack and business, Probability was doing work “that is orthogonal to everyday software production, aiming to invent and apply new tools/methods that would make the other teams more efficient in their everyday job.” 

This included, he explained, prob …

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