A Google researcher reportedly wrote a memo a few months ago, questioning the company's AI prospects and claiming that it has “no moat” in the field. Now, it appears that the memo was authentic. However, Demis Hassabis, the head of Google's DeepMind, told The Verge in a Decoder interview that he does not share the memo's pessimistic view.
“I think that memo was real. I think engineers at Google often write various documents, and sometimes they get leaked and go viral,” Hassabis said. “I think it's interesting to listen to them, and then you've got to chart your own course. And I haven't read that specific memo in detail, but I disagree with the conclusions from that.”
The memo, which was obtained from a public Discord server, argues that both Google and OpenAI “have no moat” but that both companies will ultimately lose the AI market. Open source AI projects have made incredible progress in recent months, outperforming Google and OpenAI in innovation. The document cites some examples of this, such as running foundation models on a Pixel 6 at 5 tokens per second, fine-tuning personalized AI on a laptop in a single night, and developing multimodal models in record time.
According to the document's author, Google and OpenAI are falling behind in the AI “arms race” and they should work with and learn from open-source projects. They reason that people will choose free, unrestricted models of comparable quality rather than paid restricted ones. In addition, the document stresses the value of quick iteration, stating that faster and more effective models can be produced with fewer parameters and smaller sizes.
Google Can Compete in the AI Arms Race
But Hassabis has a different view on Google's future in the AI industry. He says that Google's researchers have a competitive spirit that will keep Google at the forefront of AI. He also mentions that the combination of Google Brain and Google DeepMind, which he was asked to lead, will likely result in more breakthroughs.
“Look at the history of what Google and DeepMind have done in terms of coming up with new innovations and breakthroughs,” Hassabis said. “I would bet on us, and I'm certainly very confident that that will continue and actually be even more true over the next decade in terms of us producing the next key breakthroughs just like we did in the past.”
The Google Brain and Google DeepMind projects recently merged and the new Google DeepMind is a powerful AI research division. Mainstream AI solutions are available from private developers such as Microsoft, OpenAI, and Google. Those companies have very public AI tools, Bing Chat (Microsoft), ChatGPT (OpenAI), and Bard (Google). However, there are also popular open source AI solutions, such as Stable Diffusion from Stability AI.