DeepMind's cofounder and head of applied artificial intelligence, Mustafa Suleyman, is leaving the company for an indefinite period.
Originally reported by Bloomberg last night, the decision has been described by the company as mutual. A spokesperson for DeepMind said: “Mustafa is taking time out right now after 10 hectic years.” The company wouldn't specify the reasons for his departure but gave no indication that it is related to his performance, and he is widely expected to eventually return.
Suleyman founded the AI lab in 2010 alongside Shane Legg, a machine learning researcher from New Zealand, and childhood friend Demis Hassabis.
It was then acquired by Google in a high profile £400 million deal in 2014, and Suleyman was eventually appointed to run DeepMind's applied AI division, which aims to apply its deep learning technology to solve real-world problems.
This eventually led to the controversial 2016 partnership with the NHS, which was marred by inadequate data sharing controls while developing a kidney monitoring app called Streams, which has since been absorbed into Google's own health division, putting DeepMind's future healthcare projects in doubt.
DeepMind has also seen its financial losses widen in the past year, with the FT reporting that the company's losses rose 55 percent to £470 million last year.
The company has more than $1 billion in debt due in the next 12 months, and scepticism about its long term strategy is growing.
Gary Marcus, the founder Robust.AI and a professor of psychology and neural science at NYU, raised doubts about the commercial applications for its deep reinforcement learning in an article he wrote for Wired, warning that if the losses continued to roughly double each year, "even Alphabet might eventually feel compelled to pull out."
Suleyman has proved to be a prominent public face for DeepMind and an eloquent advocate for AI ethics, but he has attracted criticism for the company's controversial data-sharing deal with the NHS. Suleyman had led the development of the DeepMind Health team, but was removed from his role running the unit when parent Google absorbed the brand into its Google Health division.