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Demis Hassabis, Founder of DeepMind Technologies and Artificial Intelligence Wunderkind at Google, Wants Machines to Think Like Us

Demis Hassabis DeepMind Technologies gif Imgur space invaders and Artificial Intelligence Wunderkind at Google Wants Machines to Think Like Us MIT Technology Review


The man behind a startup acquired by Google for $628 million plans to build a revolutionary new artificial intelligence.

Demis Hassabis started playing chess at age 4, and soon blossomed into a child prodigy. At age 8, success on the chessboard led him to ponder two questions that have obsessed him ever since: first, how does the brain learn to master complex tasks; and second, could computers ever do the same?

Now 38, Hassabis puzzles over those questions for Google, having sold his little-known London-based startup, DeepMind, to the search company earlier this year for a reported £400 million ($650 million at the time).

Google snapped up DeepMind shortly after it demonstrated software capable of teaching itself to play classic video games to a super-human level. At the TED conference in Vancouver this year, Google CEO Larry Page gushed about Hassabis, and called his company’s technology “one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in a long time.”

Work is already underway on finding ways that DeepMind technology could improve some of Google’s existing products, such as search. But if the technology progresses as Hassabis hopes, it could change the role that computers play in many fields.

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Hassabis made his mark as a neuroscientist:

In a 2007 study recognized by the journalScience as a “Breakthrough of the Year,” he showed that five patients suffering amnesia due to damage to the hippocampus struggled to imagine future events. It suggested that a part of the brain thought to be concerned only with the past is also crucial to planning for the future.

That memory and forward planning are intertwined was one idea Hassabis took with him into his next venture. In 2011, he quit life as a postdoctoral researcher to found DeepMind Technologies, a company whose stated goal was to “solve intelligence.”

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