Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a live virtual and augmented reality conference to announce Facebook’s renaming as Meta, in this screen grab from a video posted on October 28, 2021.
Facebook | via Reuters
Facebook parent company Meta has lost some of its top artificial intelligence scientists this year as the company continues its pivot to the metaverse.
At least four prominent members of Meta AI have left in recent months, according to people familiar with the matter and LinkedIn analysis. Between them, scientists have published dozens of academic papers in world-renowned journals and achieved multiple breakthroughs that Meta has used to improve Facebook and Instagram.
Karl Hermann, an AI entrepreneur who previously worked at rival lab DeepMind, told CNBC on Monday the actual figure could be more than half a dozen, adding that the London AI lab had seen an alarming number of exits. “Meta’s office in London has just collapsed and they’ve lost most of their [top] researchers within six weeks,” he said.
Neil Lawrence, professor of machine learning at the University of Cambridge, told CNBC he was not surprised. ” Brands [Zuckerberg] gone is all Meta now…and they never properly invested in anything in London in the first place,” he said.
Among those leaving the company is Edward Grefenstette, a research scientist who led Meta’s efforts on a branch of AI known as reinforcement learning, who left in February. He declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.
Heinrich Kuttler, one of Meta AI’s research engineering managers, who left in recent weeks to join Inflection AI, a startup created by DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman and LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman. Kuttler joined Meta in January 2019 after spending over two years at DeepMind.
Another recent departure is Ahmad Beirami who left his job as a research scientist at Meta in January and joined Google in the same role.
And last year, in December, Douwe Kiela quit his job as a research scientist at Meta after spending five years with the company. He is now director of research at the artificial intelligence start-up Hugging Face.
Kuttler, Beirami and Kiela did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.
A number of other Meta AI staff have left or are expected to leave in the coming weeks, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC, asking to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the issue. They added that there was no single reason people were leaving.
“Some people jump to another big lab because they think it will better advance their career or research program,” the source said.
“Others go because their team’s compensation or hiring potential is better elsewhere,” the source added. “Others just want to create a start-up or get involved in a small business. For some, it might be related to the fall in Meta stocks, but I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily the primary reason. »
Meta’s chief AI scientist, Yann LeCun, who co-founded the company’s AI lab in 2013 after having dinner at Zuckerberg’s, told CNBC via email that “people have a changing interest in[s] and move forward. »
He added: “Ed [Grefenstette] joined an unnamed start-up. I’m sad he’s gone. But I understand that people’s interests change. I don’t know what Heinrich’s plans are. There is no underlying common cause that I know of. There was no detectable migration from FAIR (Facebook AI Research) London or from the other sites. »
It should be noted that several people from DeepMind and other AI labs have also joined Meta over the past two years.
Director of Facebook AI Research Yann LeCun
Fueled by the belief that AI will change the world, US tech giants have invested heavily in the field in recent years, with most of the money going to hire top talent at top universities. plan such as Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, and MIT, Stanford and NYU in the US
The latest departures at Meta AI follow several other big releases over the past two years. Rob Fergus, the co-founder of Meta’s AI Lab, left Meta in 2020 to join DeepMind and build a DeepMind team in New York.
Elsewhere, Marc’Aurelio Ranzato left his position as research director at Meta AI last August and joined DeepMind.
Beyond Meta’s AI lab, there have been a number of other major company releases in 2021.
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