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Google Buys UK AI Startup Deep Mind 113

Posted by timothy
from the doesn't-all-this-artificiality-annoy-you? dept.
TechCrunch reports that Google has acquired London-based artificial intelligence firm Deep Mind. TechCrunch notes that the purchase price, as reported by The Information, was somewhere north of $500 million, while a report at PC World puts the purchase price lower, at mere $400 million. Whatever the price, the acquisition means that Google has beaten out Facebook, which reportedly was also interested in Deep Mind. Exactly what the startup will bring to Google isn't clear, though it seems to fit well with the emphasis on AI that the company underscored with its hiring of futurist Ray Kurzweil: "DeepMind's site currently only has a landing page, which says that it is 'a cutting edge artificial intelligence company' to build general-purpose learning algorithms for simulations, e-commerce, and games. As of December, the startup had about 75 employees, reports The Information. In 2012, Carnegie Mellon professor Larry Wasserman wrote that the 'startup is trying to build a system that thinks. This was the original dream of AI. As Shane [Legg] explained to me, there has been huge progress in both neuroscience and ML and their goal is to bring these things together. I thought it sounded crazy until he told me the list of famous billionaires who have invested in the company.'"
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Google Buys UK AI Startup Deep Mind

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  • by MindPrison (864299) on Monday January 27, 2014 @02:05AM (#46078369) Journal
    Well... http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/w... [wikia.com] ;)
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday January 27, 2014 @02:14AM (#46078397) Homepage Journal
    I think we all know how THIS turns out.

    If anyone needs me, I'll be in my underground bunker.

  • by Powercntrl (458442) on Monday January 27, 2014 @02:31AM (#46078449)

    Since Google still seems to believe Glass has potential to be the "next big thing" and it's entirely voice controlled, it makes sense that they'd want a voice assistant that can respond more intelligently than "I don't have a clue what you're talking about, should I search the web?" Maybe this company's AI would be adaptable to something along those lines?

    Personally, I'm not a big fan of talking to machines. Yeah, it looks awesome in sci-fi, but in real life it just makes you look like a hipster douchebag when you're out in public talking to the little robotic voice inside your mobile device.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, it looks awesome in sci-fi, but in real life it just makes you look like a hipster douchebag when you're out in public talking to the little robotic voice inside your mobile device.

      Two suggestions for the hipster image problem:

      1. Stop using an iPhone
      2. Don't end every Siri command with "...but you've probably never heard of it."

    • by codeButcher (223668) on Monday January 27, 2014 @04:23AM (#46078787)

      it just makes you look like a hipster douchebag when you're out in public talking to the little robotic voice inside your mobile device.

      Who are you calling a douche? I'm actually talking to the little robotic voice in my head, the mobile device is just there for camouflage.

    • by idji (984038)
      That's what we said in the early 1990's when people were talking into mobile phones. Times change.
      • Re:Voice assistant (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday January 27, 2014 @08:00AM (#46079533)

        No they weren't. Cellphones were cool from the start. At least, around here anyway. Everyone wanted one. The problem with glass is the same with bluetooth headsets. People ware them even when they're not using them... which makes you look like a douche. Once Google has these embedded in regular glasses this will stop being an issue.

        • by Maow (620678)

          No they weren't. Cellphones were cool from the start. At least, around here anyway. Everyone wanted one. The problem with glass is the same with bluetooth headsets. People ware them even when they're not using them... which makes you look like a douche. Once Google has these embedded in regular glasses this will stop being an issue.

          Agree with the first part, but on BlueTooth headsets - what's one supposed to do with them, take them off and pocket them? That risks losing them. I leave mine in place, even when turned off, when I'm out and about. 'Cause I know I'd lose it otherwise.

          Maybe it helps that I grew up in a household where hearing aids were worn by a family member, so having something in the ear was normal. On the other hand, I hated wearing ear buds for the longest time, 'til I recognized the usefulness of them.

    • Re:Voice assistant (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Warbothong (905464) on Monday January 27, 2014 @05:18AM (#46078955) Homepage

      Since Google still seems to believe Glass has potential to be the "next big thing" and it's entirely voice controlled, it makes sense that they'd want a voice assistant that can respond more intelligently than "I don't have a clue what you're talking about, should I search the web?" Maybe this company's AI would be adaptable to something along those lines?

      Personally, I'm not a big fan of talking to machines. Yeah, it looks awesome in sci-fi, but in real life it just makes you look like a hipster douchebag when you're out in public talking to the little robotic voice inside your mobile device.

      I still find it amusing that command lines are seen as the least intuitive interface and voice control is seen as the second-most intuitive (after mind-controlled), even though voice control is just a command line over a noisy, ambiguous channel, where you can't even see the commands you're inputting.

      • The kind of voice control Google is after (as in "the second-most intuitive interface") is hardly the same as the kind of voice control that is available today. The first would be able to interpret your intent as well as a human could, possibly better (filtering out noise, asking to clarify ambiguities rather than making assumptions). And it's nothing like the command line, which does no interpreting, refining or clarification at all; it just executes a limited set of commands exactly as entered, with no
        • Re:Voice assistant (Score:5, Informative)

          by Warbothong (905464) on Monday January 27, 2014 @09:01AM (#46079929) Homepage

          The kind of voice control Google is after (as in "the second-most intuitive interface") is hardly the same as the kind of voice control that is available today. The first would be able to interpret your intent as well as a human could, possibly better (filtering out noise, asking to clarify ambiguities rather than making assumptions). And it's nothing like the command line, which does no interpreting, refining or clarification at all; it just executes a limited set of commands exactly as entered, with no room for so much as a misplaced comma.

          It's exactly like a commandline, which have been attempting to interpret their input for decades (most famously with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org] ).

          The two reasons modern commandlines don't do this are 1) lack of effort and 2) that it's often a very bad thing. According to http://www.nhplace.com/kent/Pa... [nhplace.com] one of the motivating factors for defining Common LISP was to stop DARPA from rolling out INTERLISP, and therefore DWIM, across all their projects.

          As for clarification, I run into this all the time when typing non-existant commands (thanks to the "command not found" program) or using undefined variables (thanks to GHC).

          • by Speare (84249)

            And it's nothing like the command line, which does no interpreting, refining or clarification at all; it just executes a limited set of commands exactly as entered, with no room for so much as a misplaced comma.

            ZORK I (1979):

            > unlock grating with key
            Which key do you mean, the skeleton key or the rusty key?

            > skeleton
            Unlocked.

      • by WillAdams (45638)

        The problem is the command line is incredibly unintuitive in that one must learn / memorise a special language to make use of it.

        The ``Outland'' interface would be ideal --- but I don't see much progress on it.

        Where are the general-purpose natural language command languages and parsers?

        • Where are the general-purpose natural language command languages and parsers?

          They're sat in the middle of whatever voice-command pipeline you're imagining, between the speech-recognition layer and the voice synthesiser. The advantage of the CLI is that you don't need to recognise speech or synthesise a voice.

    • by TheLink (130905)

      I'd rather human augmentation than voice assistants.

      You may still need some sort of AI stuff to do that, but the focus is different. One path focuses on augmenting humans, allowing them to more directly be superhuman. The other path has humans requesting stuff from smarter and smarter AIs.

      If it were up to me, it'll be more about thought macros and more:
      http://hardware.slashdot.org/c... [slashdot.org]
      http://tech.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

    • The reason talking to machines seems so awesome in sci-fi is that the machines can respond and argue back with human or almost human intelligence. When AI can do that there will be a surge in voice-controlled computers.

    • by baffled (1034554)

      Personally, I'm not a big fan of talking to machines. Yeah, it looks awesome in sci-fi ..

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • Voice interface is one of the hardest things to implement well in AI because there are so many sentences that sound similar, understanding depends so much on context.

      Without understanding the context of the conversation, a voice interface will not be able to know if you are talking about sodas or sawdust, robots or row boats, new displays or nudist plays.

  • "Sorry, I cannot open the pod bay doors" does sound better in a British accent.

  • by narcc (412956) on Monday January 27, 2014 @02:34AM (#46078455) Journal

    I thought it sounded crazy until he told me the list of famous billionaires who have invested in the company.

    I'd like a copy of that list. It'll be like mining for gold in Fort Knox.

    • Yeah, it's funny how people can latch onto a flawed metric like that.

      Here's a fun idea - let's take this current list and cross-reference it against the list of excited tech luminaries that told us "Ginger" was going to revolutionize our lives...

    • Go read about the founders of DeepMind. These are not kooks, they are people with publication lists a mile long coming out of academia.

      You know how industry always gets things later than academia? Well guess what academia's been working on for the past decade or so...

  • Billionaires (Score:4, Interesting)

    by umdesch4 (3036737) on Monday January 27, 2014 @02:34AM (#46078459)
    "I thought it sounded crazy until he told me the list of famous billionaires who have invested in the company." "Then I realized it was actually a money laundering scheme."
    • by DarkOx (621550)

      Right those guys are good at exactly one thing for the most part, buzzword BINGO. They get in before the institutional folks do, and get out as they in turn enter. Those guys are good at following the billionaire "smart money" and knowing how to get at as the second tier and retail folks buy in. Then the music stops

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Or an elaborate get-rich-quick scheme.

  • Until the last technocrat is strangled by the wiring of the last transhumanist.
  • Well? Has he said anything about them? If not, why not?
  • ... our new AI panda overlords.
  • Legg (Score:5, Informative)

    by Warbothong (905464) on Monday January 27, 2014 @05:24AM (#46078965) Homepage

    Shane Legg's research is pretty cool, since it deals with very sci-fi-like problems in a pretty rigorous way. For example, his PhD dissertation "Machine Superintelligence" approaches intelligence in a non-anthropocentric way, from the perspective of computability http://www.vetta.org/documents... [vetta.org]

    More recently he's tried to define an IQ-like metric for comparing different AI projects and measure progress in the field http://www.vetta.org/2011/11/a... [vetta.org]

    • by gweihir (88907)

      His thesis looks more like an elaborate Survey-Paper that only marginally adds to the existing research. (May still be enough for a PhD, I am not criticizing that, adding "marginally" to complex theory is an accomplishment and worthwhile doing.) Certainly no break-through in there.

      I also found it badly structured. For example, at my institution, a chapter "contributions of this thesis" is mandatory for acceptance.

    • by demachina (71715)

      This is one of DeepMind's recent papers, Playing Atari with Deep Reinforcement Learning [arxiv.org] [PDF]

  • by StripedCow (776465) on Monday January 27, 2014 @06:11AM (#46079133)

    If Deep Mind really has the knowledge and capability to form strong AI, then this is a smart move.
    Deep Mind could have become the next Google.

    However, I find it unacceptable that big mega-corps just go out and buy companies with talent.
    Just imagine what the world would have looked like when Microsoft had bought Google when it was in its infancy...

    • If Deep Mind really has the knowledge and capability to form strong AI, then this is a smart move.
      Deep Mind could have become the next Google.

      However, I find it unacceptable that big mega-corps just go out and buy companies with talent.
      Just imagine what the world would have looked like when Microsoft had bought Google when it was in its infancy...

      I'm sure by now Microsoft would be dealing with teenage rebellion; "No Dad, I'm not going to be a hypocrite like you and force my vendors to bundle my software -- I'm going to data mine my customers and make my money and advertising like a 2 dollar whore. Just like Mom!"

  • (through Friendship and Ponies)

  • And you have quite a surveillance platform.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Monday January 27, 2014 @08:02AM (#46079541)

    WTF? I mean, seriously, these people have zero qualifications and are know to invest in things they have not researched. I predict this is just a colossal waste of money as they cannot succeed at this time. There is not even any credible theory how true AI could be implemented, nobody can promise they have a real chance of doing it at this time without either lying through their teeth or being grossly incompetent.

    Incidentally, Ray Kurzweil is an incompetent hack. Google did itself no favor by hiring him. This person has grand visions but zero understanding of actual reality.

    • by hllclmbr (998978)
      Surely you've submitted your resume to Google to be a replacement for their head of engineering (Kurzweil's current gig). Incidentally, you don't even know who these billionaires are, so how can you possibly comment on their qualifications?
      • by gweihir (88907)

        Ad hominem is for those that have nothing worthwhile to say. You seem to qualify.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Google doesn't care about building an artificial human. Google wants algorithms that can better predict what ads will work on you. And that CAN be done at this time. The field of machine learning has come a long way in the last five years.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        I do know very well what Google wants. But that is not what the story implied.

    • Incidentally, Ray Kurzweil is an incompetent hack. Google did itself no favor by hiring him. This person has grand visions but zero understanding of actual reality.

      Oh, really? A quick visit to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] finds:

      Kurzweil was the principal inventor of the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first commercial text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer Kurzweil K250 capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition. Kurzweil received the 1999 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, America's highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. He was the recipient of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for 2001, the world's largest for innovation. And in 2002 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, established by the U.S. Patent Office.

      I wish everyone was 1/10 that much of an "incompetent hack." If he thought Deep Mind was worth buying, that's the way I'd bet.

      • Kurzweil is obviously a smart guy. However, although his name seems synonymous with AI these days, I don't see many references to how he's innovated in this field? What has he actually achieved in the realm of AI, apart from co-opting the term Singularity from Vernor Vinge?

        • by PapayaSF (721268)

          There's "narrow" AI, where Kurzweil has major achievements: e.g. speech recognition. Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is a whole 'nother ball game. The field is largely speculative, because it doesn't really exist yet. So it's not unfair to say Kurzweil is big in AI, even though we don't yet have AGI.

  • I thought it sounded crazy until he told me the list of famous billionaires who have invested in the company.

    Unfortunately, American politics shows that all too many billionaires are, in fact, crazy, and American business shows that all too many billionaires make bad investment decisions.

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