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Google co-founder Sergey Brin says he's ‘surprised’ by pace of A.I. and uses a story of a cat to explain it

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said Thursday he was "surprised" by the advances in artificial intelligence after ignoring early projects in the field.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has been investing heavily in AI, acquiring companies such as Deepmind in 2014 and using the technology in the majority of its products from search to photos.

While Brin was heading the Google X research lab from 2010 to 2015, it was working on a project called Google Brain — an AI platform that is used across the search giant.

But Brin told delegates at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, that, at the time, he "didn't pay attention to it all."

Sergey Brin
Getty Images
Sergey Brin

The Google co-founder told a story about a colleague who showed him a picture of cat created by this AI platform.

"Jeff Dean would periodically come up to me and say, 'Look, the computer made a picture of a cat,' and I said 'OK that's very nice, Jeff' … and fast forward a few years and now Brain probably touches every single one of our main projects," Brin said.

"This kind of revolution in deep nets has been very profound and definitely surprised me even though I was right inside there. … It's an incredible time. What can these things do? We don't really know the limits."

AI and its impact on society has been a big theme at Davos with business leaders and politicians discussing the topic. Earlier this week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Davos attendees that AI could potentially kickstart weak economic growth.

Brin said AI could free up people from doing mundane things to spend their time on more creative jobs, but admitted it is "almost impossible" to predict what the impact of the technology could be.

Google was founded by Brin and Larry Page in 1998 and is now one of the most valuable companies in the world. Brin said it was the first time he'd attended Davos in eight years. He even revealed that he might still finish his Ph.D.

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