Lords of the new intelligence
Peer-reviewed research | Depth and breadth of intellectual and financial resource | Public victor in AlphaGo competition, watched around the world
Founded in London in 2010 and acquired by Google in 2014, DeepMind is the world leader in artificial intelligence (AI) research. Still based in London, it has other research centres in Edmonton and Montreal in Canada, Paris, and Mountain View in California.
It is the poster child of a world class business that started life as an idea in a university lab in the UK - in this case UCL - and a showcase company for demonstrating the quality of the UK’s research capabilities in artificial intelligence and related disciplines.
DeepMind grabbed the world’s headlines when its AlphaGo program took on the world’s best player at Go - the hideously complex and intuitive strategy game which has more positions than atoms in the universe - and won. (For Go-loving China, the extent of AlphaGo’s victory was a wake-up call and now China is committing massive sums to investment in AI.)
It has launched a research unit, DeepMind Ethics & Society, to explore and understand the real-world impacts of AI. It has the stated dual aim of helping” technologists put ethics into practice,” and helping society “anticipate and direct the impact of AI so that it works for the benefit of all.”
The company has published more than 180 peer-reviewed papers to date and their publications are highly respected within the research community. “Whenever a Deepmind paper drops, it shoots up to the top of Reddit’s Machine Learning page and often Hacker News, which is a testament to how well-respected they are within the tech community,” wrote Google’s Eric Jang recently.
DeepMind’s presence is central to London’s status as a global powerhouse in AI, building on the city’s convergence of interdisciplinary skills and, it should be said, its openness to brainpower from around the world. It’s significant, notes Rohan Silva in a recent article, that although it is now part of Alphabet, the founding team did not relocate “because Demis [Hassabis] and his DeepMind colleagues were sure being in London gave them an edge over their competitors, they insisted they had to stay here, not move to California.”
Observing the style in which it plays chess, DeepMind's AlphaZero is showing signs of human-like intuition and creativity, notes this article in The Telegraph.
According to Professor David Silver, who leads the reinforcement learning research group at DeepMind, "we’ve seen something of turning point where we’re starting to understand that many abilities, like intuition and creativity, that we previously thought were in the domain only of the human mind, are actually accessible to machine intelligence as well. And I think that’s a really exciting moment in history.”
Exciting, frightening, bewildering: take your pick - but history is being made in Britain.
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