Google's fate hinges on this man: Demis Hassabis

CNBC Television
10 May 202409:38

TLDRDemis Hassabis, a former chess prodigy and video game designer, is pivotal in steering Google's AI initiatives. Once leading with its acquisition of DeepMind, Google faltered in AI innovation, overtaken by competitors like OpenAI. Now, with Google I/O approaching, Hassabis is tasked with merging cutting-edge AI research with practical applications to regain the lead. His unique background from gaming to neuroscience fuels his approach to making AI relatable and useful, aiming to transform scientific achievements into commercially viable products. This shift comes as Google intensifies its efforts to translate AI advancements into tangible benefits, hoping to dominate the AI landscape once again.


  • 🧠 Demis Hassabis, a neuroscientist, is a key figure in Google's AI strategy, aiming to mimic the human brain's general learning system.
  • 🕹 Hassabis' early success as a chessmaster and video game designer has influenced his approach to AI development.
  • 🤖 Google's AI, through DeepMind, has made significant strides, such as solving the game of Go and developing AlphaGo, which beat the world's top Go player.
  • 📉 Despite early leads, Google has seen its position in the AI race challenged by competitors like OpenAI, which has been more aggressive in product development.
  • 🚀 Hassabis' role at Google has shifted from focusing on research to also shipping products that are usable and loved by consumers.
  • 🎢 His first product, a hit video game at 17, serves as evidence of his ability to combine technology with user experience.
  • 🔬 DeepMind's AlphaFold is a groundbreaking AI technology for predicting protein structures, which has been open-sourced to accelerate scientific research.
  • 📈 Google is now focusing on monetizing its AI technologies, with AlphaFold 3 potentially becoming a multi-billion dollar business.
  • 🤝 DeepMind has secured commercial partnerships for drug discovery, indicating a move towards productization and market application of its research.
  • 🔄 The convergence of research and product development at Google is aimed at bringing AI technologies to a broader user base and generating revenue.
  • 👀 Hassabis' competitive nature and past achievements position him as a promising asset for Google as it seeks to regain its lead in the AI sector.

Q & A

  • What is the significance of Demis Hassabis for Google's future?

    -Demis Hassabis is a key figure in Google's future as he is responsible for critical AI breakthroughs and is tasked with turning AI into actual products that consumers can use and benefit from.

  • What is the role of the human brain in AI development according to the transcript?

    -The human brain serves as an example of a general learning system, which is the type of system AI researchers aim to build and mimic.

  • What was the initial approach of DeepMind in developing its AI technology?

    -DeepMind initially developed its technology through games like Breakout and AlphaGo, which allowed AI systems to learn in a safe environment without real-world consequences.

  • How did Google's strategy regarding AI research and product development change after the release of OpenAI's chatbot?

    -After the release of OpenAI's chatbot, which brought generative AI into the mainstream, Google became more aggressive and shifted its policy to stop sharing research publicly until it had been turned into products.

  • What is the significance of AlphaFold developed by DeepMind?

    -AlphaFold is a groundbreaking piece of technology that uses AI to help scientists predict the structure of proteins, which is one of the biggest challenges in biology, and it has been open-sourced by DeepMind to accelerate drug discovery and fundamental research.

  • What is the current challenge for Google in the AI field?

    -Google's current challenge is to prove that it can go beyond the academic world and successfully monetize AI research, turning it into products that are useful and beneficial to the general public.

  • How has Demis Hassabis contributed to Google's AI efforts?

    -Demis Hassabis has contributed by leveraging his background in gaming and neuroscience to marry cutting-edge technology with design and user interface, aiming to bring AI technologies to every product in Google.

  • What was Google's initial hesitation in releasing AI products?

    -Google was initially cautious about releasing AI products due to concerns about their reputation and the potential misuse of the technology.

  • What is the importance of the game Go in the context of AI development?

    -The game of Go was significant in AI development as it was a complex game that AI had not been able to master until DeepMind's AlphaGo program beat the world's top Go player, marking a decade earlier than expected.

  • How has the competitive landscape in AI changed, and how does it affect Google?

    -The competitive landscape in AI has become more aggressive, with companies like OpenAI and Microsoft making significant strides. This has forced Google to be less cautious and more proactive in turning its AI research into marketable products.

  • What is the role of simulations in AI learning?

    -Simulations play a crucial role in AI learning as they provide a safe environment for AI systems to try out different strategies, learn from their outcomes, and improve without real-world consequences.

  • What was the impact of the Transformers study on AI innovation?

    -The Transformers study by Google researchers was a breakthrough that improved AI models' ability to process text, which jumpstarted the wave of AI innovation we are seeing today, including the development of generative AI models like chatbots.



🤖 AI's Impact on Google's Future

The first paragraph discusses the pivotal role of artificial intelligence (AI) in shaping Google's destiny. It highlights the importance of the human brain as a model for general learning systems and the relentless progress in AI. The narrative focuses on Demis Hassabis, the visionary behind DeepMind, and his significant contributions to AI, including the unexpected early victory of AlphaGo against a human Go champion. The paragraph also touches on Google's cautious approach to releasing AI technologies and its subsequent struggle to maintain a lead in the AI arms race. It outlines the challenges Google faces in monetizing AI and turning research into marketable products, with a particular emphasis on the upcoming Google IO event as a critical showcase for demonstrating AI's commercial potential.


📈 Google's Shift from Research to Product Development

The second paragraph delves into Google's strategic shift from an emphasis on research to a focus on product development. It discusses the company's decision to stop sharing research publicly until it has been commercialized, as exemplified by the success of AlphaFold 3 and its potential as a multi-billion dollar business. The paragraph also explores the transformative impact of Google's research on the broader AI industry, particularly the influential paper on Transformers that paved the way for generative AI. It contrasts Google's cautious approach with OpenAI's aggressive push into the mainstream with its user-friendly chatbot, Chat GPT, and the subsequent competitive response from Google. The narrative underscores Demis Hassabis's competitive spirit and his role as a driving force in Google's AI efforts, highlighting his past achievements and the potential for his experience to steer Google towards success in the AI market.



💡Demis Hassabis

Demis Hassabis is a renowned neuroscientist, chessmaster, and video game designer who has been pivotal in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). He is the co-founder and CEO of DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2014. Hassabis' work has been influential in AI breakthroughs, particularly with the development of AlphaGo, an AI program that defeated the world's top Go player. His role is central to Google's strategy in leveraging AI technology and research for product development and monetization.

💡Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. In the context of the video, AI is the driving force behind technological advancements at Google, with a focus on creating general learning systems inspired by the human brain. AI is also central to the competitive landscape described, where companies like Google and OpenAI are racing to develop and release advanced AI products.


AlphaGo is an AI program developed by DeepMind that made history by defeating the world's top Go player. It represents a significant milestone in AI, showcasing the potential of machine learning to excel in complex strategic games. The success of AlphaGo is emblematic of the broader advancements in AI and highlights the competitive edge that Hassabis and DeepMind brought to Google.


DeepMind is a London-based AI research lab that was acquired by Google for $550 million in 2014. It is known for its cutting-edge research in deep learning and has been given a significant degree of independence to operate within Google. DeepMind's work, including the development of AlphaGo and AlphaFold, has been instrumental in advancing AI technology and positioning Google as a leader in the field.

💡AI Arms Race

The term 'AI Arms Race' refers to the competitive development and deployment of AI technology among major tech companies. The video discusses how Google, under Hassabis' leadership, is working to maintain its lead in this race, which has now moved into the phase of applications, products, and monetization. The arms race is characterized by a rapid pace of innovation and the strategic release of AI advancements.

💡Google IO

Google IO is an annual developer conference held by Google, where the company often makes significant announcements related to its products and technologies. In the video, it is mentioned as an important event where Google, with Hassabis, is expected to demonstrate its AI capabilities and potentially showcase new products, highlighting the company's progress in the field of AI.


Monetization in the context of the video refers to the process of converting AI technology and research into profitable products or services. Google, with Hassabis at the helm, is focused on turning its AI advancements into commercial successes, which is a significant shift from the company's previous approach of open research and development.


AlphaFold is a groundbreaking AI technology developed by DeepMind that predicts the 3D structure of proteins, which is a significant challenge in biology. The technology has been open-sourced by DeepMind, offering it for free to the scientific community to accelerate drug discovery and fundamental research. AlphaFold represents a shift towards more practical applications of AI in real-world problems.


Transformers refer to a type of AI model that has revolutionized the way machines process natural language. The video mentions a breakthrough study by Google researchers that introduced this technology, which later influenced the development of chatbots like Chat GPT by OpenAI. Transformers are a key component in the advancement of natural language processing and AI-driven text generation.

💡Elixir Studios

Elixir Studios is a video game company founded by Demis Hassabis after his success as a child chess prodigy and designer of a best-selling video game. The studio represents Hassabis' early foray into the gaming industry and his ability to combine technology with user experience, which later became a valuable skill in his AI research and product development at Google.

💡Generative AI

Generative AI refers to AI systems that can create new content, such as images, music, or text, that is similar to the content they have been trained on. The video discusses how Google has been cautious about releasing generative AI technologies but was eventually spurred into action by the success of competitors like OpenAI's Chat GPT. Generative AI is a hot topic in the AI arms race and signifies the next level of AI capability.


Demis Hassabis, a neuroscientist and video game designer, is a key figure in Google's AI strategy.

Hassabis aims to build a general learning system mimicking the human brain.

Google's success in AI is tied to Hassabis' ability to innovate and productize AI technologies.

Google was cautious about releasing AI advancements, fearing damage to their reputation.

Demis Hassabis is tasked with regaining Google's lead in the AI arms race.

Google IO is a pivotal event where Google must demonstrate its AI capabilities.

Hassabis' first product at 17 was a successful video game, showcasing his ability to ship consumer products.

At Google, Hassabis combines cutting-edge technology with design and user interface.

DeepMind, acquired by Google for $550 million, was a leading AI research lab with experts in deep learning.

Google's hesitance allowed competitors like OpenAI to take the lead in AI advancements.

DeepMind developed its technology through games, starting with Breakouts in 2010.

AlphaGo, an AI developed by DeepMind, defeated the world's top Go player.

Simulations allow AI systems to learn in a safe environment without consequences.

Hassabis' early ambitions included working on AI and DeepMind.

AlphaFold, a DeepMind product, uses AI to predict protein structures, a significant challenge in biology.

Google's policy shift requires research to be productized before publication.

AlphaFold 3 has the potential to become a multi-billion dollar business with commercial partners.

The public's readiness to embrace AI systems caught Google by surprise.

Google is focused on turning AI research into profitable products.

Hassabis sees his unit as the engine room of Google, bringing AI technologies to all products.

Mixed feedback from product releases has led to rapid improvements in underlying AI models.

Demis Hassabis' competitive nature may be the drive Google needs to regain its AI lead.