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Apple’s Director of Machine Learning Quits Over Company’s Return to Work Policy

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According to The Verge‘s Zoë Schiffer (@ZoeSchiffer), Apple’s director of machine learning (ML), Ian Goodfellow, has decided to part ways with the company due to its return to work policy.

Apple employees across all disciplines demonstrated over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic that productivity and efficiency could both be achieved while working remotely. That being the case, it came as no surprise when employees petitioned to work remotely after Apple last year asked them to come back to the office in September.

The iPhone maker delayed its plans to call employees back into offices several times due to spikes in COVID-19 cases, most recently in December 2021 to a “date yet to be determined.” Corporate Apple employees ultimately started returning to their offices last month under a hybrid home/office work policy, ending two-year work from home stint.

As other tech companies like Facebook and Airbnb loosen up their work policies post-pandemic, with Facebook aiming to have half of its employees working remotely over the next decade and Airbnb last week announcing plans to let all employees “live and work anywhere,” employee demand for flexible work policies at Apple continues to grow.

“I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,” Goodfellow write in a note to staff.

Goodfellow had been at Apple for over three years, since leaving Google to join the Cupertino, California-based tech giant’s Special Projects Group in April 2019. He is credited as being the inventor of generative adversarial networks (GANs), and he was likely Apple’s most-cited ML expert.

His departure is unarguably a big hit for Apple, especially given how integral machine learning and artificial intelligence have become to the company’s products with features like Siri, face detection, and more. Apple Silicon today even contains dedicated AI processing in the form of the company’s Neural Engine.

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