Sir Demis Hassabis’ next AI challenge for Google

Sir Demis Hassabis is a cofounder of Google’s DeepMind- the precursor of Google’s AI systems.

Whilst Hassabis has a relatively low profile in the US he is emerging as the face of Google’s AI effort and on Tuesday will take the stage at the annual developer’s conference, Google I/O, for the first time.

For an academic who’s credited with some of the most important breakthroughs in AI over the past decade, Hassabis is extremely clear on his task ahead: bring the latest AI technologies to every corner of the Google universe to serve its billions of users.

“We’re like the engine room of the company,” Hassabis told CNBC, speaking about his newly integrated AI unit within Google.

Last month, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai merged Hassabis’ DeepMind with Google Brain, a separate AI team, and selected Hassabis to lead the group. It’s now up to Hassabis to reestablish Google as the leader in generative AI after the company was caught off-guard by the rapid emergence of OpenAI, which is backed by Microsoft.

There may be no more important task at Google, especially as new generative AI services give consumers alternative and more creatives ways to search for information online. The business question is — can a longtime researcher like Hassabis be the person to ship products that consumers love?

Sir Demis Hassibis- does he have the will to win for Google?

Geoffrey Hinton- who recently resigned from Google, is known as the “Godfather of AI,” says there’s no questioning Hassabis’ will to win.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody more competitive,” said Hinton, who advised Google to buy DeepMind about a decade ago. “Demis is competitive at the level of people who get gold medals in the Olympics.”

He formed that trait at any early age. Hassabis was a child chess prodigy who at one point was the No. 2 rated player in the world. He also competed in the World Series of Poker.

Hassabis says he has consumer experience on his side, too. At just 17 years old, he shipped a hit video game in the 1990s called “Theme Park.” Games at that time had to be fun and easy to navigate in order to succeed, Hassabis said. After Theme Park, he created his own video game company, Elixir Studios.

Hassabis would later go on to co-found DeepMind, which became widely recognized as the world’s leading AI research lab, attracting some of the most prominent experts in deep learning. When Google acquired the lab for a reported $500 million in 2014, DeepMind was given a long leash to operate independently.

Google fell behind in the AI race

Under Hassabis, DeepMind was known for developing its technology through games like Breakout and AlphaGo, an AI program that beat the world’s top Go player.

There was a practical reason for focusing on games. Hassabis told CNBC that “simulations are totally safe, have no consequences, but they can still learn from it.”

During his career at DeepMind and then at Google, Hassabis dominated the field of AI.
Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk would tell OpenAI co-founders in 2018 that they would need billions of dollars to have a chance of competing with Hassabis and Google.

Google, however, would lose that edge as rivals like OpenAI and Microsoft brought headline-making products like ChatGPT and Copilot to market.

Dyenamic Solutions will continue the Sir Demis Hassabis Google AI interview and review 

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