# 32 - Google vs. Timnit Gebru ... Marissa Mayer ... Salesforce ... Slack ... Microsoft
"What's that company? How do you spell it?"
— Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, refusing to even take Microsoft’s name when being asked about his history with the Redmond giant.
Weekly Quiz # 06
Identify this techpreneur who co-founded Flickr, and then Slack? Post your answer in the comments
a. Jack Dorsey
b. Stewart Butterfield
c. Marc Benioff
Apple will reduce its App Store commission that it takes a cut on paid apps and in-app purchases from 30% to 15% for small businesses who earn upto $1 million. This comes with the background of its fight against certain apps such as Spotify & Fortnite that are protesting the hefty 30% commission
For a while, it seems everyone lost track of the former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Now, she has joined team with Enrique Torres, her long time colleague from Google and Yahoo, to launch a contacts app called Sunshine.
The US Federal administration is suing Facebook for allegedly improperly reserving 2600 jobs for employees on H1-B visas, and that the social media firm did not sufficiently advertise open positions and overlooked American employees.
Salesforce acquires Slack
Salesforce acquires Slack for a whopping $27.7 billion. This allows Salesforce to further up its rivalry against Microsoft. According to Salesforce’s execs, Slack will add an effective communication layer for users
Both companies have a colorful history with Microsoft. Salesforce had a legal fight with Microsoft in 2010 for patent infringements, while Microsoft fought an hard battle with Salesforce to acquire LinkedIn.
Meanwhile Slack considers MS Teams as an existential threat and had previously accused Microsoft of ‘unsportsmanlike behavior’ for bundling MS Teams with Office Suite.
Google and the ‘Timnit Gebru’ fire
Who is Timnit Gebru?
Gebru is a very well known and widely respected Black scientist researching in AI. In 2018, she co-authored a paper that found error rates in facial recognition technologies while identifying women with darker skin tones. She also co-founded ‘Black in AI’, a community of black researchers working in AI.
Google hired her as the technical co-lead of Ethical AI.
What was her recent paper about?
Recently, she co-authored a paper (not published yet) titled “On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?”, which raised questions that may have been uncomfortable to Google and its vision of AI.
Here is the link to The MIT Technology Review webpage which has the summary of the risks highlighted in the paper. The paper rises concern about the carbon foot print of AI, abusive language ending up in the input data, high opportunity costs in research and AI mimicking human language.
Few days ago, she sent an email to her colleagues detailing how her higher-ups have tried to squash her research and had asked her to retract the paper. She also criticized the lack of diversity in her department and discouraged her colleagues from writing papers.
Google blocked her access to corporate account when she came back from vacation. Timnit then announced via Twitter that she has been terminated.
Meanwhile Google countered that her paper did not meet the standards as per their review and that Timnit had set some expectations for her to continue in Google (in particular to reveal names of those whose reviewed the paper) and her scathing internal email is unworthy of a Google Manager.
What is the consequence?
Google’s action has caused a stir among tech and academic communities, as most of them feel that Big Tech is controlling the development of powerful technologies with their own corporate interests being put first. More than 1200+ Google employees and 1500+ academic and tech supporters have signed an online petition condemning the termination of Timnit.
Hope this edition of the newsletter was informative. Till the next edition, Stay Healthy & Stay Well.