Thursday, April 25

Microsoft hires DeepMind co-founder to run consumer AI

Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence lab, is leaving the startup he led to lead Microsoft’s consumer AI business, another sign of Microsoft’s aggressive plans for the technology.

Mr. Suleyman will report directly to Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, the company announced Tuesday.

Mr. Suleyman, whose startup Inflection AI raised $1.5 billion, will be responsible for building a consumer AI business, including Microsoft’s Copilot chatbot, Bing search engine and Edge Internet browser.

One of Inflection AI’s co-founders, Karén Simonyan, a leading researcher also from DeepMind, will also be joining Microsoft, as will much of their team.

“I am delighted that they will bring their knowledge, talent and expertise to our consumer AI research and product manufacturing,” Mr. Nadella said in an email to staff. He added: “We have worked with speed and intensity, and this infusion of new talent will allow us to accelerate our pace once again. »

Mr. Suleyman co-founded DeepMind, an ambitious and pioneering AI lab in London, in 2010. After achieving a breakthrough with AI capable of playing complex games, DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014.

Mr. Suleyman left Google in 2022 and co-founded Inflection AI, a startup seeking to create an AI personal assistant. In May, it introduced its consumer assistant, Pi, which was praised for its friendly and supportive nature but gained only a million daily users, far fewer than OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT.

With much of Inflection AI’s staff now leaving for Microsoft, the company said it is changing its approach. Even if he doesn’t shut down Pi, he will no longer focus on building a mainstream business. Instead, it will work with commercial clients to build, test and tune AI systems. Microsoft is also licensing the latest underlying technology from Inflection AI to make it available to enterprise customers of its cloud computing products.

Inflection AI announced that it has hired Sean White, who previously worked at Mozilla, the maker of the popular Firefox web browser, to take over as CEO.

(The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft in December for copyright infringement over news content related to AI systems.)

As one of the founders of DeepMind, Mr. Suleyman helped popularize the idea that artificial intelligence technology could one day destroy humanity. But he also expressed concern about more concrete and immediate dangers associated with technology, including the spread of misinformation and job losses.

In his recent book, “The Coming Wave,” I argued that if these and other dangers could be overcome, the technology would be enormously transformative, particularly as a means of drug discovery and other forms of care health.

DeepMind and Inflection AI have not advocated open sourcing the most powerful AI technologies, an approach in which companies share the raw code behind new systems in an effort to increase their popularity and allow external engineers to remedy their shortcomings. But Mr Suleyman argued that AI technologies should ultimately not be controlled by any company.

Whether open source AI technology has become a topic of debate among technology companies. Some, like Meta and Elon Musk’s company xAI, say open source is the best way to ensure technology is secure. But OpenAI, Microsoft’s close partner, has kept the code for its latest technology secret.