Apple snaps up AI expert who left Google over ethics row

Bengio has been working in machine learning for more than 30 years.
Photo: LinkedIn

Apple has hired former distinguished Google scientist and machine learning expert expert Samy Bengio. In doing so, Bengio becomes the latest former Google AI expert to jump ship to Apple.

Samy, like his brother Yoshua Bengio, is a renowned expert in machine learning. Having completed a PhD in machine learning back in 1989 — long before most of the world wised up to ML — Bengio worked for Google from 2007 through 2021. He left the search giant earlier this year, amidst the fallout following the controversial departure of well-known AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru and a paper over the dangers of large-scale language AI models.

Joining Apple

“This is one of the most difficult emails I can think of sending to all of you: I have decided to leave Google in order to pursue other exciting opportunities,” Bengio wrote in an email to his Google research team in April. “There’s no doubt that leaving this wonderful team is really difficult.”

His last day at Google was April 28. Clearly, Apple’s recruiters (or similar) wasted absolutely no time in contacting Bengio since, one week later, it has announced his hiring.

According to Reuters:

“Bengio is expected to lead a new AI research unit at Apple under John Giannandrea, senior vice president of machine learning and AI strategy, two people familiar with the matter said.”

Bengio was one of three authors who developed Torch, an open-source machine learning library in 2002. Torch was the antecedent of PyTorch, a library primarily developed by Facebook’s AI wing for applications ranging from computer vision to natural language processing.

Stepping up focus on AI

For a long time, Apple lagged behind its other Silicon Valley rivals when it came to machine learning. Today, it has majorly stepped up its game in this department. In recent years, Apple has been ahead of the likes of Facebook and Google when acquiring AI companies. Between the likes of Bengio, John Giannandrea and generative adversarial network (GAN) innovator Ian Goodfellow, Apple has no shortage of experts working in this field. All three of these big names joined Apple directly from Google.

Source: Reuters