Demis Hassabis

WGL 2021-Demis Hassabis
Oli Scarff—AFP/Getty Images
  • Title
    CEO and Cofounder
  • Affiliation

No current technology promises to be more transformative than artificial intelligence. And arguably no company is pushing the boundaries of A.I. as far and as fast the one Hassabis leads: DeepMind. Owned by Google-parent Alphabet, DeepMind is more research skunkworks than business, best known for creating A.I. software able to beat the world’s top human players at the ancient strategy game Go.

But the London-based company has also made a mark in matters of greater consequence. It has quietly contributed to a slew of improvements in Google’s ubiquitous products, from the voice generation behind Google’s digital assistant to the longer battery life enjoyed by Android phone customers around the world. Increasingly, though, what motivates Hassabis is using A.I. to answer fundamental scientific questions. This past year, DeepMind took a giant step in that direction when it used A.I. to conquer a 50-year-old biochemical challenge: successfully predicting the folded shape of a protein from its DNA sequence. It’s an achievement likely to help accelerate drug discovery for potential treatments for conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer, as well as boosting other life science research.

Now the company is working on boundary-pushing advances in material science and astronomy. Hassabis, a former child chess prodigy with a doctorate in cognitive neuroscience, has been compared to the Manhattan Project’s Robert Oppenheimer for his ability to assemble and motivate scientific dream teams, marshaling them to achieve big breakthroughs years, if not decades, sooner than most thought possible.