Inflection AI CEO Mustafa Suleyman on building modern AI, DeepMind origins, and more | E1794 | Summary and Q&A

August 18, 2023
This Week in Startups
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Inflection AI CEO Mustafa Suleyman on building modern AI, DeepMind origins, and more | E1794

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In this video, Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind and founder of inflection AI, talks about the origins of DeepMind, their journey in AI research, and their collaborations with Google. He discusses the challenges and successes they faced, the advancements in hardware that enabled their work, and their involvement in various projects within Google.

Questions & Answers

Q: What was the origin of DeepMind and how did they begin their work in AI research?

Mustafa explains that the origins of DeepMind date back to 2010 when he and Demis Hassabis, his longtime friend and co-founder, were playing poker and discussing the future of technology and its impact on the world. They were particularly interested in teaching machines to learn their own representations of value, which eventually led them to explore the possibilities of AI research.

Q: What was the early perception of AI, and how did DeepMind's work challenge those perceptions?

Mustafa mentions that back in 2010, AI was still seen as a niche and experimental field primarily discussed in academic circles. Most people didn't believe in its commercial potential or its ability to have a real-world impact. DeepMind's early success in developing deep learning models for tasks like image recognition and game playing challenged these perceptions and sparked interest in the practical applications of AI.

Q: Can you explain DeepMind's work on using deep learning to play Atari games?

Mustafa shares that one of DeepMind's significant achievements was training a deep learning model to play Atari games. They developed an algorithm that used self-play and reinforcement learning to learn how to play the game directly from the pixels on the screen. Through trial and error, the model discovered strategies to achieve high scores in several Atari games, showcasing the potential of deep learning in game playing.

Q: How did DeepMind's collaboration with Google unfold, and what projects did they work on?

Mustafa explains that DeepMind collaborated with Google on various projects, except for search and YouTube. They worked on optimizing data centers' energy consumption, improving wind turbines' efficiency, designing activity classification algorithms for wearable devices, and more. Their goal was to apply deep learning technologies to different domains within Google's ecosystem and make a measurable impact.

Q: Why didn't DeepMind work with search and YouTube, the two biggest franchises within Google?

Mustafa mentions that DeepMind attempted to work on optimizing YouTube's recommendation system at one point but encountered challenges. They found it hard to shift an already existing and well-established system like search, which values transparency and predictability. The nature of these platforms made it difficult to integrate deep learning technologies seamlessly, leading DeepMind's focus to other projects within Google.

Q: Looking back, was it a mistake to sell DeepMind to Google instead of staying independent?

Mustafa reflects on the decision to sell DeepMind to Google in 2014. He believes that given the scale of investment required for DeepMind's growth and projects, joining Google was the right move. While there might have been other possibilities, the financial resources and support offered by Google allowed DeepMind to thrive and make significant contributions to the field of AI.

Q: Were there any notable disagreements or controversies during DeepMind's collaboration with Google?

Mustafa mentions that there were occasional disagreements and challenges during the collaboration, particularly when it came to integrating deep learning algorithms into existing systems and dealing with regression over time. However, such issues were part of the learning process, and DeepMind worked closely with Google to address them and make improvements.

Q: How did advancements in hardware contribute to the progress and success of DeepMind's work?

Mustafa emphasizes that hardware advancements played a crucial role in the success of DeepMind's research. Over time, the increase in computing power allowed them to scale their models and training processes, leading to breakthroughs in various domains. The trajectory of hardware advancements, which outpaced algorithmic development, enabled DeepMind and other AI researchers to make rapid progress.

Q: What were some large-scale achievements of DeepMind within Google that had a significant impact?

Mustafa highlights some of DeepMind's achievements within Google, such as reducing energy consumption in data centers by 30%, making Google wind turbines 20% more efficient, and designing activity classification algorithms for wearable devices. These accomplishments showcased how deep learning and AI could be applied to optimize existing systems and enhance performance.

Q: Did DeepMind face challenges in maintaining the quality of their AI models over time?

Mustafa explains that maintaining model quality over time can be a challenge due to various factors, including drift and the need to balance quality, speed, and cost. Over time, AI models can experience regression due to changes in data or shifting priorities. However, DeepMind continuously works on improving their models and finding the right balance between quality and efficiency.


DeepMind's collaboration with Google resulted in several impactful projects, including optimizing data center energy consumption, improving wind turbines' efficiency, and designing algorithms for wearables. They demonstrated the potential of deep learning for game playing and tackled challenges in integrating AI models into existing systems. Advancements in hardware played a crucial role in DeepMind's success, allowing them to scale their models. Maintaining model quality presents ongoing challenges, but DeepMind strives to find the right balance between quality, speed, and cost.

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