What’s going on at Google’s AI unit called DeepMind?

on May 21, 2021
  • DeepMind's managers had been negotiating with Google for a more independent structure.
  • The talks have been called off late last month.
  • DeepMind’s work will be reviewed by an ethics board staffed mostly with Google executives.

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Late last month, Google’s parent Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) called off the negotiations with the senior managers of its artificial intelligence (AI) unit, DeepMind, over the managers’ demand for greater independence for the unit, according to a Wall Street Journal story.

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Among the various options put forward by DeepMind’s leadership were a partial spinout and a move to a legal structure used by non-profit groups. Such structures didn’t not make financial sense for Google as it had acquired the company back in 2014 for more than $500 million and was still backrolling the non-profitable business unit.

Co-founder Demis Hassabis informed the employees over a video call last month about the unsuccessful negotiations for a more autonomous corporate structure but added DeepMind’s work will be reviewed by an ethics board staffed mostly by Google executives.

Google is set to increase the size of its team that studies the ethics of AI, according to the story.

Why does it matter?

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Deepmind works at the cutting-edge of technology. Its AI research and applications can have far reaching implications raising ethical questions.

The unit’s founders believe that one corporate entity should not have control over such a powerful technology and has in the past drafted rules to prevent its AI tools from being used in autonomous weapons or surveillance.

DeepMind’s website states the following on its website:

“Guided by safety and ethics, this invention could help society find answers to some of the world’s most pressing and fundamental scientific challenges.”

More about DeepMind

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DeepMind was founded in 2010 with the long term aim of working “to solve intelligence, developing more general and capable problem-solving systems, known as artificial general intelligence (AGI),” according to its website

Its AlphaGo program was the first to beat a world champion at the Chinese board game called Go. The unit has built advanced programs that are able to diagnose eye diseases as effectively as the world’s top doctors. Such applications demonstrate the power and sensitivity of its AI tools.


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