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Friends From the Old Neighborhood Turn Rivals in Big Tech’s A.I. Race

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the personal and professional rivalry between Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman, two childhood friends from London who are now leading executives in the tech industry's race to build artificial intelligence (AI). It explores their divergent paths from growing up in different neighborhoods to becoming key figures at Google DeepMind and Microsoft AI, respectively.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Childhood and Background

1. What were the childhood backgrounds of Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman?

  • Mustafa Suleyman grew up in subsidized housing in one of London's rougher areas, with his father as a taxi driver and his mother as a nurse.
  • Demis Hassabis was a chess prodigy and video game designer, with parents who ran a toy store in London.

2. How did Hassabis and Suleyman first meet? Suleyman met Hassabis through becoming friends with Hassabis's younger brother, after Suleyman's family moved to a safer, more affluent neighborhood when he was accepted into the prestigious Queen Elizabeth's School.

3. What were their initial goals and beliefs regarding AI? When they co-founded DeepMind in 2010, Hassabis and Suleyman wanted to prevent the escalating race by profit-driven companies to build and deploy AI.

[02] Diverging Paths

1. What happened after Google acquired DeepMind in 2014? After the acquisition, Hassabis and Suleyman's paths diverged. Hassabis remained at Google, put in charge of its AI research, while Suleyman took a "rockier route", founding another AI startup, Inflection AI, that struggled to gain traction.

2. How did Suleyman end up at Microsoft? When the AI race kicked off in late 2022 with the arrival of ChatGPT, Microsoft unexpectedly hired Suleyman and most of his Inflection AI employees to lead its AI consumer products division.

3. How do Hassabis and Suleyman view their current rivalry? Despite their divergent paths, Hassabis and Suleyman still see each other as "friendly and respectful rivals", united in their belief that AI will be the next great transition in technology.

Shared by Daniel Chen ·
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