(Bloomberg) – Alphabet Inc. is reorganizing its esteemed artificial intelligence division as part of the company’s sweeping job cuts announced on Friday, according to an internal memo.
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Jeff Dean, executive director of Google’s research and artificial intelligence efforts, said that in addition to a “modest number” of cuts in the research unit, the company has determined that it has invested excessively into its data platform for care teams, called Google for Clinicians. He said the robotics unit will also see a merger between Alphabet and Google.
Alphabet announced earlier on Friday that it would cut about 12,000 jobs, more than 6% of its global workforce, becoming the latest tech giant to cut after years of growth and ample hiring. . CEO Sundar Pichai told employees that the cuts will affect jobs globally and across the company. At the same time, Pichai pointed to AI as an “important investment area” where the company has been facing increased competition lately.
Dean cites ongoing challenges with the current economic environment as the reason for the layoffs. “As a company and an institution, we have to be highly focused on the priority areas in which we want to invest,” said Dean. “We must continue to focus on ambitious, long-term research and development that will help us create revolutionary products for billions of people.”
Responding to a request for comment on layoffs in its research and AI units, company spokesman Jason Freidenfelds pointed to “a step forward and ambitious scope” in Google’s AI efforts.
Dan Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust Co., said Google’s cuts to its AI staff were “eye-catching” and “a bit confusing,” as the technology forms the backbone of the company. Google Search, its flagship product.
“These changes must be assessed more closely,” Morgan said, “and let me know that the drop in ad revenue is affecting the rest of the company.”
Google has long been considered a leader in artificial intelligence technology. Pichai once called the field deeper than fire or electricity. But Google has also faced existential threats from the outside, with the latest challenge coming from an experimental chatbot called ChatGPT from the OpenAI research lab, which could receive a significant investment from Google. Microsoft Corp.
The platform, which can deliver information in clear sentences with a simple prompt, is said to have led Google management to declare a “code red” in the company. So far, Google has refused to introduce its own competing technology in this area, although it is working on similar chatbot efforts.
Dean emphasized in the memo that Google remained committed to advancing AI and reassured employees that the Research department was at the heart of those efforts. “Even in the past year or so, together, we have made great strides in our core research into advancing AI and other key areas,” he said. “We have a focused and very ambitious, if not bold, long-term research program to focus on going forward.”
(Updated with analyst comment in sixth paragraph.)
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