The regrettable casualties of desperately chasing the industry's hot new thing.

Unwavering Dedication

Off the back of a strong third quarter, Microsoft is reportedly laying off somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 workers across its Azure cloud and mixed reality departments. And in a leaked memo as tone-deaf as it is bland, an executive at the company proclaimed that their peons' sacrifices are not in vain, for they are being done on the altar of the almighty "AI wave."

"Our clear focus as a company is to define the AI wave and empower all our customers to succeed in the adoption of this transformative technology," wrote Jason Zander, executive vice president of Strategic Missions and Technologies at Microsoft, in an email to employees quoted by Business Insider. "Along the way, we make decisions that align with our long-term vision and strategy while ensuring the sustainability and growth of Microsoft."

For a Few Billions More

Layoffs at big tech companies are practically de rigueur these days, even though the corporations are more powerful and wealthy than ever. This is frequently chalked up to systemic overhiring — which may well be true to a certain extent — but it's clear that those jobs are also being swept out to make room for investments in AI.

Microsoft last year, for example, laid off 10,000 employees right as it announced it was shoveling another $10 billion in OpenAI. Among those fired was every single person who worked in the company's AI "Ethics and Society" division — a dismal sign of things to come.

Since then, it's emerged that the company is reportedly willing to spend an eye-watering $100 billion to build a supercomputer to train an advanced new AI. And despite its existing hefty investments in OpenAI, Microsoft also reportedly wants to develop its own large language model.

Brain Drain

Those investments come at a cost: monetary, of course, but also human. The layoffs at Microsoft have been less sweeping this year, but behind the scenes, there's a lot of reorganizing going on, including the formation of a whole new division simply called "Microsoft AI" as the company shifts more workers to projects like Copilot, its ChatGPT-like assistant.

"It's never easy to make these tough decisions, particularly when they affect our colleagues and friends," Zander wrote, affecting their best impression of a human that's torn-up about their actions. "We're dedicated to supporting everyone impacted by these changes with respect, dignity, and transparency to fully support them through this transition."

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