Microsoft has reportedly laid off its entire AI ethics and society team as part of its larger job cuts. The team was responsible for ensuring the ethical, responsible, and sustainable use of artificial intelligence (AI) innovations. According to sources cited in a report by Platformer, the move leaves Microsoft without a dedicated team to ensure that its AI principles are closely tied to product design, at a time when the company is pushing to make AI tools widely available.
Ever since Microsoft-backed research lab OpenAI released ChatGPT as a prototype in November 2022, AI and AI-driven chatbots have become all the rage, being leveraged by individual users and institutions alike to generate quick, human-like responses to queries. These queries can range from writing high school essays to generating complex codes for programmers.
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The layoffs have caused concern among employees, who have said that the ethics and society team played a key role in ensuring that responsible AI principles were reflected in the company’s products.
Microsoft still has an active Office of Responsible AI division and has issued a statement affirming its commitment to developing AI products and experiences safely and responsibly. However, it is unclear how the loss of the ethics and society team will impact the company’s AI innovation going forward.
The team, which had around 30 employees in 2020, included engineers, designers, and philosophers. However, it was cut to roughly seven people in October 2022 as part of a larger reorganisation. According to the report, the team was working to identify risks posed by Microsoft’s adoption of OpenAI’s ChatGPT across its bouquet of products, such as the Bing Search engine.
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Meanwhile, Microsoft has increased the conversation limits on its Bing AI to 10 chats per session and a total of 120 chats per day, as compared to the previous limits of six chats per session and 100 per day.
Yusuf Mehdi, the Corporate Vice President & Consumer Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft, announced the change via Twitter and also mentioned that the company’s engineering team has been making steady progress with the quality of experience, which has given them the confidence to expand testing.
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