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Some facts about £400m Demis Hassabis

  • Now 37, Hassabis was born in London and quickly showed academic promise and skill at chess.
  • Aged 13, he reached the rank of chess master and was number two in the world, under 14.
  • He was accelerated through school and did his A-levels two years early.
  • He worked in video games at Bullfrog, helping design Theme Park, aged 17, with Peter Molyneux. The game sold millions and won a Golden Joystick award.
  • Hassabis left to study Computer Science Tripos at Cambridge University, graduating with a double first-class honours in 1997.
  • On graduation, he rejoined Molyneux at Lionhead Studios, where worked as a lead AI programmer on Black & White.
  • In 1998, he left to set up his own games development company, Elixir Studios. It grew to 60-strong and signed deals with Vivendi and Microsoft; games included Republic: the Revolution and Evil Genius. The intellectual property and technology rights were sold and it closed in 2005.
  • In 1999, aged 23, he won the Mind Sports Olympiad, an international multi-disciplined competition for games of mental skill. He won it a record five times, before retiring from competitive play in 2003.
  • Hassabis was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, in 2009, for his contribution to the games industry.
  • He then switched to a career in cognitive neuroscience, returning to his primary interest of artificial intelligence. During a PhD in cognitive neuroscience at University College London, he published several papers on memory and amnesia.
  • His work was listed in the top 10 scientific breakthroughs of 2007, by Science Magazine. He established a new theory about the way the mind creates and maintains the context of remembered events as a key process underlying both the recall of memories and imagination.
  • After his PhD, he continued with his neuroscience and AI research at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at UCL as a Wellcome Trust research fellow. He was also a visiting researcher at MIT and Harvard.
  • In 2011, he left academia to co-found a London-based artificial company, DeepMind Technologies, with Shane Legg, whom he met at UCL and Mustafa Suleyman. The company developed a computer system capable of understanding and playing an Atari computer game, by looking at it on a screen, as a human would.
  • On 27 January, DeepMind was acquired by Google for £400m, the company’s largest European acquisition, in order to add technology and talent to Google’s core business of search. Google uses AI to understand search queries providing context awareness and allowing users to talk to the computer as they would a human, whether by voice, or using a keyboard.

Nigel Phillips






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