News  |  ,   |  December 16, 2020

Retired UW computer science professor embroiled in Twitter spat over AI ethics and ‘cancel culture’

News article by Taylor Soper. Published in GeekWire.


The University of Washington computer science department denounced comments made online by a retired professor over a debate about AI ethics, Timnit Gebru’s controversial exit at Google, so-called “cancel culture,” and more.

A heated back-and-forth involving longtime AI researcher Pedro Domingos and the response from the UW demonstrates the complexity of public discourse on controversial topics. It also highlights unanswered questions related to the societal implications of artificial intelligence, and is the latest example of the backlash that can occur when politics collides with academia and the tech industry.

Domingos, who joined the UW faculty in 1999 and is the author of The Master Algorithm, sparked the initial discussion on Twitter after he questioned why the Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) conference was using ethics reviews for submitted papers.

“It’s alarming that NeurIPS papers are being rejected based on ‘ethics reviews,’” he tweeted last week. “How do we guard against ideological biases in such reviews? Since when are scientific conferences in the business of policing the perceived ethics of technical papers?”

His opinion drew a number of responses from other top data scientists and those involved with NeurIPS.

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