Smart People: Demis Hassabis of DeepMind

Smart Industriy 2016: Smart People - Demis Hassabis

The victory of an artificially intelligent computer program called AlphaGo created by DeepMind, a British company owned by Google, over the world champion at the ancient Chinese board game of Go, Lee Sedol, caused quite a stir earlier this spring. Go, it turns out, is far more complicated than chess, a game in which IBM’s “Deep Blue” computer managed to beat the then-reigning world champion Garry Kasparov, as far back as 1996.
The mastermind behind this record achievement received little attention in the press, though. Demis Hassabis, co-founder and chief executive of DeepMind, was born in London as the son of a ChineseSingaporean mother and a father of Greek-Cypriot descent. He began working on artificial intelligence as a computer science undergraduate at Cambridge University and founded the company together with Mustafa Suleyman, a technologistand childhood friend, and sold it to Google for ?400m in 2014.

I know how to play Go well enough to be able to appreciate its beauty

Demis Hassabis

DeepMind is a neural network which works like the human brain. It is capable of teaching itself and learning from experience. In fact, it mastered the complicated rules of Go without human assistance. Mr. Hassabis, who became a chess master when he was still 13 and has competed in the Mind Sports Olympiad, an annual festival for games of mental skill, served as the machine’s trainer and sparring partner, but the cognitive achievement was all AlphaGo’s own. Go originated 2,500 years ago in China and is played by an estimated 40m people worldwide, including more than 1,000 professional players.
Mr. Hassabis told the Financial Times “but it is not one of the games I’m strong at, so I’ve not actually played AlphaGo myself as it surpassed my ability almost from the beginning.”In March, AlphaGo wrapped up the five-game series against Mr. Lee (who is considered the best Go player in the world over the last decade) by winning four times, in the process taking home a prize of one million U.S. dollars.

The Smart People 2016


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