Note — Aug 18, 2019

Inside DeepMind’s Epic Mission to Solve Science’s Trickiest Problem

Quite an interesting interview with DeepMind’s Hassabis. Their emphasis on transdisciplinarity and hiring and thinking from multiple domains is worth a read and not as common as it should be. In my opinion their focus on big science problems instead of self-driving or face recognition is certainly a more valid direction. In the last part there are some weird paragraphs on innovation, which make me think that the author should read some Mazzucato, and I was disappointed to see Hassabis talk of having “two work days” and working to 4h30am but otherwise a good look in his head and company.

There are six or seven disciplines represented in the company’s AI research alone, and it has been hiring specialists in mathematics, physics, neuroscience, psychology, biology and philosophy as it broadens its remit. […]

“What I’ve tried to do in building DeepMind is to find ‘glue people’, those who are world class in multiple domains, who possess the creativity to find analogies and points of contact between different subjects. Generally speaking, when that happens, the magic happens.” […]

Every six months, senior managers examine priorities, reorganise some projects, and encourage teams – especially engineers – to move between endeavours. Mixing of disciplines is routine and intentional. […]

He makes frequent, lengthy digressions into various tributaries – philosophy (Kant and Spinoza are favourites), history, gaming, psychology, literature, chess, engineering and multiple other scientific and computational domains – but doesn’t lose sight of his original thought, often returning to clarify a remark or reflect on an earlier comment. […]

More: DeepMind’s Latest A.I. Health Breakthrough Has Some Problems.