AI rush sparks workplace woes: Amazon and Google under fire for workforce crunch

Mavis Tsai, Taipei; Jerry Chen, DIGITIMES Asia 0


As tech giants race to maintain their edge in the AI competition, reports have emerged from current and former employees alleging widespread mismanagement issues within these companies.

These include complaints of manpower shortages, a tendency to prioritize speed over quality, and a disregard for technical risks. According to CNBC, one Amazon engineer highlighted the company's emphasis on speed in product development to catch up on Microsoft and OpenAI.

Human sacrifice for AI

The anonymous engineer described the pressure to write extensive lines of code for new AI features without adequate testing protocols in place.

Additionally, instances were reported where team members had to rouse each other in the middle of the night to address urgent issues with the AI software. Moreover, many employees without relevant experience have suddenly been thrown into the midst of AI work.

As reported by The Register, AI researcher Viviane Ghaderi, who claims to have worked on Amazon's Alexa and Large Language Model (LLM) teams, recently filed an improper dismissal lawsuit. The complaint mentioned that Amazon to strengthen its competitive edge in Generative AI (GenAI) has gone to the extent of violating its copyright protection policies.

Additionally, some Google employees described the company's cramped product development process as akin to "building the plane while flying it". Competition pressure, shortened schedules, and insufficient budget and manpower resources are among the factors cited that lead to internal exhaustion.

Google employees also pointed out that given the intense competitive pressure in the GenAI field, it is understandable that development schedules need to be accelerated. Many tech companies claim to invest hefty resources in AI, but the industry is also currently going through spending and staff reduction, with Google being one of the many.

Staying ahead at what cost?

Microsoft employees described the company as being in a "survival of the fittest AI rat race" and, in pursuit of speed, cutting corners in ethics and security.

It is said that there are situations where the focus on AI overshadows everything else. For example, in a scenario where an engineer developed a problem-solving algorithm without GenAI.

The likelihood of it being shelved, even if this algorithm is more efficient and cost-effective is high, meaning solutions involving large language models are more prioritized.

Microsoft has recently been accused multiple times of inadequate information security protection. The company has announced a series of changes, including appointing a network chief to the product department and using the achievement of cybersecurity goals as a criterion for senior executive compensation.

In addition, employees are required to prioritize security when designing products or services. The subsequent effectiveness of this implementation remains to be seen.