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Google A.I. Researcher’s Journey from Big Company to Startup

3 Mins read

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The story of Llion Jones stands as a testament to the pursuit of innovation and the desire to break free from the confines of corporate structure. Jones, a prominent figure in Google A.I. research, recently embarked on a new chapter of his career, venturing into the world of startups to build something groundbreaking.

This article delves into his journey, challenges, and the underlying motivations that led him to take this bold step.

1. The Legacy Within Google

Llion Jones had an illustrious career at Google that spanned almost 12 years. His contributions were not just notable, but pivotal. He was among the authors of the transformative Transformers research paper, a cornerstone of modern generative A.I. His work laid the foundation for cutting-edge innovations that we see today.

Related Reading: Google’s DeepMind Explores Novel AI Life Coach

2. A Shift in Path

However, as with any journey, paths often diverge. Jones and his co-authors made a significant choice to leave Google. Their destination? A generative A.I. research lab named Sakana AI in Tokyo, led by fellow ex-Google researcher David Ha. Jones revealed that while his departure from Google was amicable, he felt the weight of the company’s size impeding the pursuit of his true passion.

3. Battling “Big Company-itis”

The term “big company-itis” coined by Jones encapsulates the bureaucratic hurdles that come with large corporations. In a candid interview with CNBC, he shared, “I think the bureaucracy had built to the point where I just felt like I couldn’t get anything done.” Despite his respect for Google, he needed a platform that allowed him to unleash his creative potential without restraint.

Related Reading: Google Launches Free AI Training Program to Foster UK Workforce Skills

4. Unleashing Creativity

With a background in AI and advanced computer science, Jones was determined to carve his own path. The 2017 paper he contributed to while at Google played a pivotal role in the birth of OpenAI’s viral chatbot, ChatGPT. This marked the convergence of his academic foundation and real-world application, a precursor to the bigger journey ahead.

5. Nature-Inspired Innovation

Jones and his team at Sakana AI are not content with the ordinary. They explore nature-inspired methodologies to revolutionize A.I. research. In his own words, “We’re kind of fanatical… looking at nature-inspired methods to see if we can find a different way of doing things, rather than doing a huge, humongous model.” Their unconventional approach signifies their dedication to thinking outside the box.

Related Reading: Google Unveils RT-2: Revolutionizing Robotic Communication with AI

6. Departure from the Norm

Jones started as a software engineer at Google’s YouTube in 2012 and transitioned into researching machine intelligence and natural language understanding in 2015. His journey is a mirror reflecting the changing landscape of tech giants as they scramble to integrate generative A.I. into their products, aiming to enhance user experience.

7. Innovation Amidst Constraints

While Google A.I. seeks to incorporate generative A.I. into various products, Jones perceives a challenge. The company’s focus on a single technology framework can limit innovation. According to Jones, this approach can become restrictive, stifling the potential for groundbreaking advancements.

Related Reading: The Transformer Revolution: Google’s Pioneering AI Breakthrough

8. The Startup Vision

Sakana AI, Jones and Ha’s brainchild, envisions a different future. Their focus extends beyond merely becoming another company with a large language model (LLM). They aim to redefine the paradigm of A.I. research, avoiding the pitfalls of bureaucracy and maintaining their unique edge.

9. A Critical View of OpenAI

Jones doesn’t shy away from sharing his perspective on OpenAI. While acknowledging their contribution to generative A.I.’s popularity, he believes their innovations aren’t entirely original. He asserts that OpenAI leveraged research from various sources, including Google, to bring their technologies to the forefront.

Related Reading: Google’s AI “Genesis” Raises Concerns as it Aims to Automate News Article Generation

10. Looking Ahead

As Sakana AI embarks on its journey, Jones and Ha remain open to collaboration. Their commitment to creating a more innovative and nimble A.I. research environment is clear. The story of Llion Jones serves as a reminder that innovation thrives when driven by passion, unconventionality, and a willingness to challenge the status quo.

Final Words

The tale of Llion Jones underscores the dynamic nature of the A.I. field and the insatiable quest for innovation. It’s a narrative of one man’s decision to leave behind the comfortable shores of a tech giant in pursuit of a more agile and creative path. As Jones and his team at Sakana AI redefine A.I. research, they beckon us all to question, challenge, and dare to break free from constraints.


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