Timnit Gebru, one of the foremost experts in AI ethics and leaders of Google’s ethics in AI team, has started her own AI research institute called DAIR focussed on topics which the scientist believed were being sidelined at Google.
The move comes a year after she was let go from Google for sending an email of concern to her team. According to the new institute’s announcement update, Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute is an independent, community-rooted institute for research free from Big Tech’s “pervasive influence.”
The group will be independently funded and will focus on publishing academic papers without the pressure of traditional academics or interference from a global corporation threatening to cut funds.
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“AI needs to be brought back down to earth”
According to Gebru in her institute’s launch announcement, “when AI research, development and deployment is rooted in people and communities from the start, we can get in front of these harms and create a future that values equity and humanity.”
So far, DAIR has raised $3.7 million from the likes of the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundation, the Kapor Center and the MacArthur Foundation. Safiya Noble, herself a Macarthur Genius Grant recipient, will be on the institute’s advisory committee, with Raesetje Sefala coming in as the first research fellow.
DAIR has pointed out a few specific research directions it is interested in as well including
- Developing AI for low resource settings.
- Coordinated social media activity.
- Data related work.
- Robustness testing and documentation.
- Langauge technology serving marginalised communities.
The institute’s website also showcases two projects meant to be examples of DAIR researchers’ work with external collaborators prior to the institute’s launch. These projects will continue on the follow-up work within DAIR’s theme.
The projects currently include “The Legacy of Spatial Apartheid” by Raesetje Sefala and a robustness testing and documentation project by Gebru herself.