The former AI scientist who resigned in protest at Google’s ‘firing’ of artificial intelligence (AI) researcher Dr Timnit Gebru, has been hired by a rival.

Google research manager Samy Bengio announced last month he was resigning, and became the highest profile staffer to resign over the Gebru matter. Bengio was a 14 year Google veteran.

Bengio is a noted Canadian computer scientist and was a co-founder of a decade-old project known as Google Brain that developed algorithms crucial to the functioning of modern AI systems.

Bengio resignation

Bengio had previously defended Dr Gebru and scientist Margaret Mitchell who was fired in February.

In December, Bengio reportedly wrote on Facebook that he was stunned that Gebru, whom he was managing, was removed from the company without him being consulted.

Though he did not mention the firings in his resignation letter at Google, the incidents influenced Bengio’s decision to resign, people familiar with the matter told Reuters at the time.

A number of other staff have also resigned from Google over the matter.

Apple job

But now it has emerged that Apple has hired Samy Bengio, and he will lead “a new AI research unit” within the iPad maker, according to a recent report in Reuters.

And it should be noted that he is not the only former Google staffer that Apple has employed.

Bengio will reportedly work directly under John Giannandrea, Apple’s senior VP of machine learning and AI strategy.

Giannandrea himself used to lead AI at Google (he worked there for eight years) before he left Google in 2018 and just one day later revealed he had begun working at Apple.

Giannandrea’s hiring at the time was viewed as a significant win for Apple, as it demonstrated its intention to take on the likes of current AI leaders such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Apple is known to use machine learning to improve the quality of photos taken with the iPhone, deliver suggestions of content and apps, as well as power smart search features across its various software offering.

And the firm has been beefing up its AI credential for a number of years now.

In 2017 Apple acquired data mining company Lattice.io in a deal reportedly worth about $200 million (£155m).

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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