The co-founder of DeepMind, the artificial intelligence lab owned by Google’s parent Alphabet, has taken leave amid apparent controversy over some of his projects.
Mustafa Suleyman headed up DeepMind’s ‘Applied AI’ division, which seeks practical uses for the company’s technology to tackle some of the most pressing issues in health, energy and other fields.
The 34-year-old north Londoner, known as ‘Moose’, is considered to be the public face of the company. Unlike his co-founder, Suleyman doesn’t have a background in science or tech and instead specialized in the business side of the company, along with ensuring their work with AI remained safe and ethical.
‘Mustafa is taking time out right now after 10 hectic years,’ a DeepMind spokeswoman told DailyMail.com
She did not state why he has taken leave but Bloomberg reported some of his projects have been embroiled in controversy in recent years.
Mustafa Suleyman, 34, (pictured), the co-founder of DeepMind, the artificial intelligence lab owned by Google’s parent Alphabet, has taken leave amid apparent controversy over some of the projects he led
It is expected he will be back towards the end of the year in what she claimed was a ‘mutual decision.’
Suleyman founded DeepMind in 2010 alongside current Chief Executive Officer Demis Hassabis.
Four years later, Google bought out the company for $486 million, which led to an expensive race in Silicon Valley for specialists in the field of Artificial Intelligence.
Reports of Suleyman’s hiatus Wednesday sparked speculation of a rift between Google and DeepMind over how to commercialize their AI products.
Suleyman’s team had essentially been responsible for finding ways for DeepMind to make money, working on a text-to-speech service for Google Cloud and cutting Google’s data center cooling costs.
However, earlier this month, the Financial Times reported that DeepMind’s losses had risen 55 percent to $571 million, credited largely to a series of aggressive bids made by Suleyman to secure the world’s brightest artificial intelligence minds under DeepMind’s payroll.
Mustafa Suleyman runs DeepMind’s applied division, which seeks practical uses for the lab’s research in health, energy and other fields
Suleyman founded DeepMind in 2010 alongside current Chief Executive Officer Demis Hassabis, (pictured)
The AI company has landed itself in deep water a number of times over the past five years, even with their very first product, a mobile app called Streams, sparking a wealth of controversy.
The ambitious idea behind Stream, which has been made in development with the British National Health Service, had been to develop an app to help doctors predict and detect acute kidney issues.
However, a freedom of information request later revealed the company had gained access to the private medical data of more than 1.6 million NHS patients. A UK court later ruled that the deal violated patient confidentiality.
Both Suleyman and DeepMind released statements apologizing for the invasive nature of the project.
Based in London, Streams shares operations with the US-based Google Health unit, but Google states that patient data remains under DeepMind’s control and the move to Google does not affect anything.
In late 2018, Google said the team that created Streams would join a new Google division called Google Health.
Forbes reported that Suleyman had argued for the London-based business to operate independently of Google, according to former DeepMind employees.
Under Suleyman’s guide, DeepMind’s complex mission is to essentially solve intelligence, then use that solution to solve all other world issues
Suleyman, a self-described social activist who studied philosophy and theology at Oxford, said in a 2018 profile that he ‘differs from many of today’s tech founders in that he genuinely seems to care about the welfare of everyone on the planet.’
The company he founded may be owned by one of the world’s largest companies, however Suleyman went on say that he believed ‘capitalism is a failing society’ and said his ambition with DeepMind was to ‘solve the world’s toughest problems’, making no mention of how such ventures could be profitable.
‘We believe today that in some sense, capitalism in many ways has delivered so much for us over the last couple of centuries,’ Suleyman said at a Google ZeitgeistMinds event in London last year. ‘And yet in many areas, capitalism is currently failing us. We actually need a new kind of set of incentives to tackle some of the most pressing and urgent social problems and we need a new kind of tool, a new kind of intelligence, that is distributed, that is scaled, that is accessible, to try and make sense of some of the complexity that is overwhelming us.’
Under Suleyman’s guide, DeepMind’s complex mission is to essentially solve intelligence, then use that solution to solve all other world issues.
For the past decade, DeepMind has been building complex algorithms that can learn for themselves using techniques similar to those seen in the human brain.
Suleyman, a self-described social activist who studied philosophy and theology at Oxford, said in a 2018 profile that he ‘differs from many of today’s tech founders in that he genuinely seems to care about the welfare of everyone on the planet.’ The company he founded may be owned by one of the world’s largest companies, however Suleyman went on say that he believed ‘capitalism is a failing society’ and said his ambition with DeepMind was to ‘solve the world’s toughest problems’, making no mention of how such ventures could be profitable
Ultimately, the company hopes to end up with something that works like an artificial hippocampus — the part of the brain that associated with long-term memory.
‘It was clear to me that we needed new institutions, creativity and knowledge in order to navigate the growing complexity of our social systems. Reapplying existing human knowledge was not going to be enough,’ Suleyman explained.
‘Starting a new kind of organisation with the single purpose of building AI and using it to solve the world’s toughest problems was our best shot at having a transformative, large scale impact on society’s most pressing challenges.’
The 34-year-old, who is considered to be well-liked among the UK tech sector, accepted that such an ambitious undertaking would not come without ethical concerns, particularly regasrding the societal impact advanced AI could have, calling it ‘one of the most pressing areas of inquiry’.
As a result, when Google acquired DeepMind, he and Hassabis demanded that the company set up an internal ethics board to oversee AI work across all divisions.
Google did try creating an external ethics advisory board, as DeepMind’s founders had wanted. But it shut the project down two weeks later, amid an employee-driven uproar over Google’s decision to include Heritage Foundation president Kay Cole James, an outspoken conservative who has previously voiced anti-LGBT sentiments, as a member of the board.
Mustafa Suleyman has not responded to a DailyMail.com request for comment.