How many people are going to get the axe in favor of AI?

Be Evil

Google has laid off more than a thousand people since January 10 — and according to CEO Sundar Pichai, there will be more firings in the future as the company pushes forward with its AI pivot.

"We have ambitious goals and will be investing in our big priorities this year," Pichai told Google's staff in a company-wide email reviewed by The Verge. "The reality is that to create the capacity for this investment, we have to make tough choices."

Those layoffs, as prior reporting from Business Insider and Axios indicates, took place across several departments. Hundreds were in the company's advertising and customer sales teams, while others impacted the Google Assistant, Fitbit, and hardware verticals.

In the more recent memo, the CEO said that although the more recent and forthcoming "role eliminations" will not be "at the scale of last year’s reductions" — a reference to the 12,000 jobs Google cut around this time last year — the company will continue down the path of "removing layers to simplify execution and drive velocity in some areas."

Heel Turn

Google's forthcoming "layer-removal" comes on the heels of the company's tumultuous 2023, which along with the 12,000 cuts at the beginning of the year saw it pivot to AI much like its peers and competitors.

Indeed, as the New York Times reported based on insider interviews late last year, the company's pivot to AI was made hastily as OpenAI's ChatGPT — and its alliance with Microsoft — threatened to leave more established tech players else in its dust.

Just before Christmas 2022, the NYT's reporting explains, the company's top lawyer summoned executives to deliver a directive: that their teams were to drop whatever they had previously been working on and begin developing a slate of AI products immediately, per Pichai's orders. Just over a month later, those 12,000 employees were axed, and now we appear to be seeing the continued toll of that rapid decision-making process.

As Axios aptly pointed out in its own analysis of the 2024 Google layoffs, it seems less that people are being replaced by AI itself and more that they are being replaced with smaller teams of people who are good with the technology as the company adjusts course.

It's hard to say how those AI-adept new workers feel about their roles, but it seems likely they're essentially building the tech that will eventually replace them — and that can't feel good.

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