Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Losing a Pioneering Leader, Where Is Google's AI Search Going?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

After Losing a Pioneering Leader, Where Is Google's AI Search Going?

Article excerpt

Google's ubiquitous search engine could be getting even smarter, despite the retirement of the man behind its rise.

Amit Singhal, the longstanding chief of Google Search operations, announced his retirement Wednesday effective later this month. Although the loss of Mr. Singhal after 15 years with the company is significant, Google's choice for his replacement shows the direction in which it hopes to take its Search product.

"Search is stronger than ever, and will only get better in the hands of an outstanding set of senior leaders who are already running the show day-to-day," Singhal wrote in a post on Google+. "Search has transformed people's lives; over a billion people rely on us. Our mission of empowering people with information and the impact it has had on this world cannot be overstated."

One of the senior leaders Singhal referred to, John Giannandrea, will be promoted to head Google's Search operations after Singhal's official departure. Mr. Giannandrea is currently one of Google's vice presidents of engineering and has worked at the company since 2010. But the appointment of Giannandrea, a leader in the development of machine learning at Google, demonstrates how the company hopes to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into one of its most recognizable products.

Machine learning refers to a field of study related to AI that focuses on how computers adapt to evolving problems and "learn," based on real-world information and guidance. This process results in more organic choices or predictions by machines that would not be possible using only programs written by human coders, and is one of the uses of AI that Google is investing its resources in.

"Machine intelligence is crucial to our Search vision of building a truly intelligent assistant that connects our users to information and actions in the real world," Google told Reuters in an email.

Google has already begun integrating AI into its services, including Search. The company announced in the fall that RankBrain, an AI system that can understand, filter, and connect words and phrases - even those it doesn't yet fully know or understand - is already handling a "very large fraction" of all new Google Search queries.

"Machine learning isn't just a magic syrup that you pour onto a problem and it makes it better," Google research scientist Greg Corrado told Bloomberg. …

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