As banks dangle their feet in the murky waters of machine learning and spend big money recruiting artificial intelligence professionals for what have so far been uncertain returns, they may want to spare a thought for Google. The tech company has just published accounts for DeepMind Technologies Limited, the British-based artificial intelligence company it founded in September 2010. The results show just how costly investing in artificial intelligence can be.
For the year ending in December 2017, DeepMind's UK wage bill amounted to £201m, up from £105m the previous year. It was largely thanks to this that the company made an operating loss of £279m (up from £124m one year earlier). Painful.
DeepMind's deepening costs come after CEO Demis Hassabis said in December that the company had doubled its headcount to 700 over the previous 12 months. The implication is therefore that Google pays each of its DeepMind employees around £280k ($363k) a head. - Possibly even more given that some of those 700 may be based in its other global offices in Alberta, Montreal, Paris and Mountain View and therefore paid outside the UK.
Alphabet's generosity is all the more impressive given that DeepMind's revenues are diminutive. Last year, the company earned £54m from other Alphabet Group 'undertakings.' Many of DeepMind's initiatives are research-focused and directed towwards healthcare, environmental or social requirements. The company has been helping Imperial College London to develop screening technologies for breast cancer, for example. It's also enabled Google to use less energy in its data centres and - famously - developed AlphaGo, a computer programme which beat a human Go player in 2015.
A lack of revenues and the high cost of hires isn't dissuading DeepMind from expanding further in the UK: the company currently has around 30 vacancies in London. If banks - who are also after deep learning talent - want to compete, they may need to raise their game.
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