March 16, 2016

Innovators of the Month: The Genius Behind Google DeepMind

From left to right: Shane Legg, Mustafa Suleyman, and Demis Hassabis.

By Megan G. 

Who are the founders of Google DeepMind?

To start off, perhaps it’s more appropriate to ask: What is Google DeepMind? For readers unfamiliar with this project, it is a London-based machine learning company that researches and develops artificial intelligence. DeepMind was originally not part of Google but was actually acquired by the mega tech company in 2014.

The masterminds behind this project are Demis Hassabis, Shane Legg, and Mustafa Suleyman, and they are the main subjects of this month’s Innovator post. The most outspoken and well-known of the founders is Hassabis, but all three of these techies are worth mentioning for their amazing work on Google DeepMind and machine learning.

Fun Facts about Demis, Shane, & Mustafa

Hassabis is not only an artificial intelligence researcher, but also a neuroscientist, computer game designer, and world-class gamer. Being well-versed in neuroscience is probably what has helped Hassabis and his team succeed in creating a machine that “thinks” and “learns” on its own.

As for his experience in gaming, perhaps this lends to the DeepMind team’s interest in conquering one of the most popular computer games of the 1990s, StarCraft, with AI.

New Zealander Legg, according to Wired, struggled in primary school because he could barely read or spell. However, he could program his Smith VZ200 computer. His parents took him to an educational psychologist, who found that Legg’s intelligence wasn’t limited, it was actually “off the chart.”

Legg was diagnosed with dyslexia, taught how to use a keyboard, and quickly became one of the top-performing students at his school. At age 12, Legg taught himself at his school’s library and learned about alpha-beta search and programming chess. Age 12, people.

Suleyman is the enterprise guru of the DeepMind team and is also passionate about social impact. His career before machine learning included starting the Muslim Youth Helpline and advising on human rights policy to London’s mayor.

Now, at DeepMind, Suleyman integrates their machine learning tech into Google products and communicates with the top engineers between both companies.

How DeepMind is Making A.I. History

Google DeepMind’s latest accomplishment has been the success of the AlphaGo AI, a machine programmed to learn and play the ancient Chinese game of Go. In the past two weeks, AlphaGo has conquered two different human Go champions, most recently winning 4-1 against world champion Lee Sedol. Legg’s interested in programming chess games against his classmates surely came in handy here.

Why Go? Well, the interesting thing about Go is that it’s not a game of pure strategy. Many times, Go players will say they chose a move “because it felt right,” using intuition instead of logic. This is what makes AlphaGo AI’s successes so interesting—and potentially terrifying, depending upon how you view artificial intelligence (aka the possibility of robot overlords).

At one point during the fateful game, which had its final match yesterday, Lee Sedol chose a completely illogical move—one only a human could make—to try to confuse AlphaGo. From the 4-1 score, you can see how far his wholly human trickery got him. So, what does this hold for DeepMind’s future?

This quote from Demis Hassabis says it all:

“We are thrilled to have achieved this milestone, which has been a lifelong dream of mine. Our hope is that, in the future, we can apply these techniques to other challenges—from instant translation to smartphone assistants to advances in health care.”

We recently touched on the need for better digital assistants here on Tek Shouts!, with Rina’s review of Hound. Clearly, a smartphone assistant that could learn as it interacted with its human counterparts could greatly affect the efficiency of mobile tech, which is necessary for everyone to have in this digital age.

As for health care and instant translation, those are certainly markets Google has explored and pursued, and having an intelligent AI on their side could make advancements move a lot faster.

Let’s just hope we don’t get ahead of ourselves and have a horrible, health care disaster like the poor people of Raccoon City

“You’re all going to die down here…” No, Red Queen, NO! Image from YouTube.

Which innovators in tech, marketing, business or SEO do you want to learn about next? Let Tek Shouts! by eGumball know in the comment section below.

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