One of Google’s leading AI developers has departed the company under a cloud of controversy. Fei-Fei Li served as chief scientists within the cloud-computing division and played a key role in a recent controversy involving a contract with the Pentagon.
The incident happened in June when Google announced it was backing away from a previous contract with the Pentagon. Through a program called Project Maven, the US Department of Defense would use Google artificial intelligence. Image-recognition was the core of the Project Maven.
Li found herself in the center of a storm when internal emails were leaked. In the correspondence, Li told Google employees to avoid talking about the AI part of the program. She argued this would lead the company to think AI was being “weaponized”.
“This is red meat to the media to find all ways to damage Google,” Li wrote.
Fei-Fei Li had been with Google since 2016. A noted AI researcher, Li was a key figure in Google’s AI development. She led the company towards opening a research lab in Beijing. During her time with Google, Li continued to teach as a professor at Stanford University, where she will now return full time.
Google says Li is replaced by Andrew Moore, dean of the school of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Moore will now head the company’s artificial intelligence division within Google Cloud. In the announcement, the company says Moore will take his position at the end of this year.
It is worth mentioning that Li has not been dismissed by Google, at least not officially. The company merely says she is moving on. To emphasize this, the announcement revealed that Li will remain an advisor with the company.
“What I have learned by working in the industry will strengthen further collaborations between academia and industry going forward.” says Dr. Fei-Fei Li. “And I look forward to working closely with Andrew and the Google Cloud AI teams to continue this collaboration.”