Microsoft hires DeepMind co-founder to lead new AI division

Microsoft has appointed the co-founder of the British artificial intelligence lab DeepMind as the head of a new AI division.

Mustafa Suleyman, 39, co-founded DeepMind with Demis Hassabis and Shane Legg in 2010 and the company went on to be bought by Google for £400m in 2014. It now forms the core of Google’s AI efforts after merging with another unit to become Google DeepMind in 2023.

The chief executive of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, announced in a blogpost that the British AI pioneer, who left DeepMind in 2019, will be chief executive of a new organisation called Microsoft AI focusing on the US company’s consumer products and research. Several employees at Sulyeman’s Inflection AI startup will join the division.

Microsoft has become a leading player in generative AI – technology that immediately produces convincing text, image or audio from simple hand-typed prompts – thanks to its multibillion-dollar investment in OpenAI, the developer of the ChatGPT chatbot.

Nadella said: “I’ve known Mustafa for several years and have greatly admired him as a founder of both DeepMind and Inflection, and as a visionary, product maker and builder of pioneering teams that go after bold missions.”

The new division unites Microsoft’s consumer AI efforts such as its Copilot chatbot and the new Bing browser that uses the technology underlying ChatGPT. The Copilot, is at the centre of Microsoft’s efforts to generate revenue from its AI efforts and can write emails, summarise documents and make presentations.

“This infusion of new talent will enable us to accelerate our pace yet again,” Nadella wrote.

Karen Simonyan, who co-founded Inflection AI along with Suleyman and the Microsoft board member Reid Hoffman, will join the new unit as chief scientist.

Google is expanding its AI-related efforts. Bloomberg News reported on Monday that Apple was in talks to build Google’s Gemini AI product into the iPhone.

Inflection AI has emerged as one of the most high-flying names in the genAI race after raising $1.3bn from Microsoft and the chipmaker Nvidia at a valuation of $4bn last June.

Suleyman, born in north London to a Syrian father and English mother, has recently published a book on AI, The Coming Wave, that outlines the potential benefits of the technology but also warns that it could threaten global order and calls for a significant increase in the number of researchers working on AI safety.

In an interview with the Guardian last year, Sulyeman described the book as a “provocation”.

“I think the cool thing about what I’m doing is that I’m predicting something,” he said. “And I think a lot of people don’t have the courage to predict things. I don’t think I’m wrong, but we do have time to intervene.”

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