Google merges its DeepMind and Brain research teams

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Alphabet’s Google has consolidated its artificial intelligence research groups into one unit, the company’s latest move to keep from falling behind in the AI race.

The change folds the Brain team from Google Research and Alphabet’s DeepMind into one team, Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said in a blog post on Thursday. “Combining all this talent into one focused team, backed by the computational resources of Google, will significantly accelerate our progress in AI,” Pichai said. Demis Hassabis will lead the group as CEO of DeepMind.

Jeff Dean, the executive who had been leading Google’s artificial intelligence and research efforts, will move out of management as part of the reorganization, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss internal issues. In his new role as Google’s chief scientist, Dean will be working with both Google Research and DeepMind to develop new, more capable AI systems, and won’t be overseeing large teams, the people said. He will report directly to Pichai.

Alphabet’s DeepMind, based in London, has long been known as the Google parent company unit that regularly introduced artificial intelligence breakthroughs, including its work on AlphaFold, technology that can predict the shape of proteins, as well as AlphaGo, software that taught itself to play the strategy game Go better than any human on earth. Internally, the unit has typically been seen as a group that works on artificial intelligence concepts that may not have direct applications in Google products.

Google Research, meanwhile, was responsible for “transformer” technology, key building blocks for large language models. That technology powers the current crop of chatbots, including Google’s Bard and OpenAI Inc.’s ChatGPT.

Now, Google’s reorganization appears to consolidate that research work under one umbrella, Google DeepMind, signaling tighter integration with the rest of Alphabet. During Alphabet’s fourth-quarter earnings report in February, the company announced that starting this year, DeepMind would be included in Alphabet’s corporate costs to reflect how the technology is being incorporated into other businesses — rather than as part of the “Other Bets” category of investments with less immediate impact, Alphabet said.

James Manyika, Google’s senior vice president of technology and society, will take over as head of Google Research, Pichai said in his note. The unit is meant to continue its work on areas like privacy and security, quantum computing, health, climate and responsible AI, he said. Manyika also expanded his purview when Google executive Clay Bavor left earlier this year, assuming responsibility for emerging technology projects that Bavor had previously overseen.

Some of Google’s efforts in rushing out generative AI products in order to compete with OpenAI’s success have left workers feeling demoralized, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. The Mountain View, California-based search giant is making compromises on misinformation and other harms in order to catch up with the wild success of ChatGPT, workers have said.

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