Fei-Fei Li, one of the most respected names in cloud-based AI, is leaving Google after less than two years at the company. She will be replaced by Andrew Moore, currently dean of the school of computer science at Carnegie Mellon. Li is set to return to Stanford University.
Bloomberg reports on Li’s departure:
In early June, Google retreated from a Pentagon cloud contract following employee protests. The program, called Project Maven, used Google’s AI-powered image-recognition software. In internal emails, Li praised the contract but cautioned colleagues to avoid mentioning the AI component of the deal for fear that the public would latch onto concern about “weaponized” AI. “This is red meat to the media to find all ways to damage Google,” Li wrote in an email reported by The New York Times.
Google hired Li in 2016, although the China-born scientist continued in her AI role at Stanford. While working at Google, she helped create applications that the company could package for businesses that buy its cloud services. Many of these offerings built on Li’s specialty in computer vision, giving machines the ability to recognize and process images at tremendous speed. As the third-place competitor, behind Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in the cloud industry, Google’s unit leans heavily on its AI tools to lure potential clients.
At Google, Li’s mantra was “democratizing AI” — spreading the advanced tools to more software developers and academic researchers. She spearheaded the acquisition of Kaggle, a company that organizes more than 2 million data scientists.