Google names Black executive Marian Croak to oversea research of AI ethics

Alphabet Inc’s Google has named Marian Croak, a Black executive, to oversee research on responsible artificial intelligence (AI). The development comes midst weeks of internal anger over a firing of a prominent Black scientist.

In a statement Google confirmed that Croak will manage 10 teams, including a dozen scientists studying the ethical considerations of automated technologies known as AI.

In December, Google’s ethical AI co-lead, Timnit Gebru, had said the company had fired her since she questioned the company’s order.

Google’s employees have expressed concerns of the unfair manner Gebru’s was treated by the company.

Croak has been among executives who tried to broker a way forward between Google’s staff and management.

Croak, a vice president of engineering, will report to Google AI chief Jeff Dean. After a meeting he told employees that she respected Gebru, and what happened to her was unfortunate.

In a video on Google’s blog, Croak also acknowledged dissent in the research areas which are now under her purview.

“There’s quite a lot of conflict right now within the field, and it can be polarizing at times, and what I’d like to do is just have people have the conversation in a more diplomatic way,” said Croak.

On Twitter, Alex Hanna, a Google employee, reacted to the news about Croak calling it “a betrayal” saying it occurred behind Google’s Ethical AI team’s back and did not address demands that the team had made following Gebru’s firing.

In a statement, Gebru said “Marian is a highly accomplished trailblazing scientist that I had admired and even confided in. It’s incredibly hurtful to see her legitimizing what Jeff Dean and his subordinates have done to me and my team.”

Croak, who previously worked on site reliability for Google, will now also oversee teams doing research related to social good and fairness in health algorithms and accessibility.

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