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Google might ask questions about AI ethics, but it doesn’t want answers | John Naughton

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March 13, 2021 at 04:00PM

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The departure of two members of the tech firm’s ethical artificial intelligence team exposes the conflict at the heart of its business model

If I told you that an academic paper entitled “On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots” had caused an epochal row involving one of the most powerful companies in the world, you’d have asked what I’d been smoking. And well you might: but stay tuned.

The paper has four co-authors, two from the University of Washington, and two from Google – Dr Timnit Gebru and Dr Margaret Mitchell. It provides a useful critical review of machine-learning language models (LMs) like GPT-3, which are trained on enormous amounts of text and are capable of producing plausible-looking prose. The amount of computation (and associated carbon emissions) involved in their construction has ballooned to insane levels, and so at some point it’s sensible to ask the question that is never asked in the tech industry: how much is enough?

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