From the ‘godfathers of AI’ to newer people in the field: Here are 16 people you should know — and what they say about the possibilities and dangers of the technology. – DAVID RAUDALES


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From the ‘godfathers of AI’ to newer people in the field: Here are 16 people you should know — and what they say about the possibilities and dangers of the technology.

Three of the “godfathers of AI” helped spark the revolution that’s making its way through the tech industry — and all of society. They are, from left, Yann LeCun, Geoffrey Hinton, and Yoshua Bengio.

Meta Platforms/Noah Berger/Associated Press

Artificial intelligence has leaped into the mainstream after ChatGPT launched in November. 
Researchers, CEOs, and legislators are now talking about how AI could transform our lives.
Here are 16 of the major names in the field — and the opportunities and dangers they see ahead. 

Since ChatGPT launched last November, AI has catapulted into the mainstream.

Investment in artificial intelligence is rapidly growing — on track to hit $200 billion by 2025 — as companies race to ramp up their AI divisions. People are grappling with how applications of AI will change the way we communicate with one another, make our lives more efficient, or even how AI could replace our jobs.

And yet, over the past few months, major business leaders and researchers in the field have begun speaking up about the risks and benefits associated with the dizzying pace of AI development. Some say AI will lead to a major leap forward in the quality of human life. Others have signed a letter calling for a six-month pause on development, testified before Congress on the long-term risks of AI, and claimed it could present a more urgent danger to the world than climate change

In short, AI is a hot — and controversial — topic right now. To help you cut through the frenzy, Insider put together a list of some of the big names in the field. Of course, no list can be completely comprehensive, but here’s a good starting point to learn what leaders in the field are saying about how the technology could shape our future. 

Geoffrey Hinton, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, is known as a “godfather of AI.”Geoffrey Hinton, a trailblazer in the AI field, recently quit his job at Google and said he regrets the role he played in developing the technology.

Noah Berger/Associated Press

Hinton’s research has primarily focused on neural networks, systems that learn skills by analyzing data. In 2018, he won the Turing Award, a prestigious computer science prize, along with fellow researchers Yann LeCun and Yoshua Bengio.

Hinton also worked at Google for over a decade, but Hinton quit his role at Google this past spring, so he could speak more freely about the rapid development of AI technology, he said.

After quitting, he even said that a part of him regrets the role he played in advancing the technology. 

“I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have. It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things,” Hinton said previously. 

Hinton has since become an outspoken advocate for AI safety and has called it a more urgent risk than climate change. He’s also signed a statement about pausing AI developments for six months. 

Yoshua Bengio is a professor of computer science at the University of Montreal.Yoshua Bengio has also been dubbed a “godfather” of AI.

Associated Press

He also earned the “godfather of AI” nickname after winning the Turing Award with Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. 

Bengio’s research primarily focuses on artificial neural networks, deep learning, and machine learning. According to his website, in 2022 Bengio became the computer scientist with the highest h-index in the world, which is a metric for evaluating the cumulative impact of an author’s scholarly output. 

Aside from his academic work, Bengio also co-founded Element AI, a startup that develops AI software solutions for business that was acquired by the cloud company ServiceNow in 2020. 

In recent months, however, Bengio has also expressed concern about the rapid development of AI. He’s signed an open letter calling for a six-month pause on AI development that has been signed by more than 33,000 people including Hinton, Open AI’s Sam Altman, and Elon Musk.

“Today’s systems are not anywhere close to posing an existential risk,” he previously said. “But in one, two, five years? There is too much uncertainty.”

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, has catapulted into a major figure in the area of artificial intelligence since launching ChatGPT last November.OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is both optimistic about the changes AI will bring to society, but also says he loses sleep over the dangers of ChatGPT.

JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images

Altman was already a well-known name in Silicon Valley long before, having served as the president of the startup accelerator Y-Combinator 

While Altman has advocated for the benefits of AI, calling it the most tremendous “leap forward in quality of life for people” he’s also spoken candidly about the risks it poses to humanity. He’s testified before Congress to discuss AI regulation.

Altman has also said he loses sleep over the potential dangers of ChatGPT.

French computer scientist Yann LeCun has also been dubbed a “godfather of AI” after winning the Turing Award with Hinton and Bengio.Yann LeCun, one of the godfathers of AI, who won the Turing Award in 2018.

Meta Platforms

Over the course of his career, LeCun has published more than 180 technical papers and book chapters on topics ranging from machine learning to computer vision to neural networks, according to personal website.

LeCun is professor at New York University, and also joined Meta in 2013, where he’s now the Chief AI Scientist. At Meta, he has pioneered research on training machines to make predictions based on videos of everyday events as a way to enable them with a form of common sense. The idea being that humans learn an incredible amount about the world based on passive observation.

LeCun has also remained relatively mellow about societal risks of AI in comparison to his colleagues. He’s previously said that concerns that the technology could pose a threat to humanity are “preposterously ridiculous”.

He’s also contended that AI, like ChatGPT, that’s been trained on large language models still isn’t as smart as dogs or cats.

Fei-Fei Li is a professor of computer science at Stanford University and a former VP at Google.Former Google VP Fe-Fei Li is known for establishing ImageNet, a large visual database designed for visual object recognition.

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Li’s research focuses on machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, and cognitively-inspired AI, according to her biography on Stanford’s website.

Li is also known for establishing ImageNet — a large visual database that was designed for research in visual object recognition — and the corresponding ImageNet challenge, in which software programs compete to correctly classify objects. 

Over the years, Li has been affiliated with major tech companies including Google — where she was a VP and chief scientist for AI and machine learning — and Twitter (now X), where she was on the board of directors from 2020 until Elon Musk’s takeover in 2022



UC-Berkeley professor Stuart Russell has long been focused on the question of how AI will relate to humanity.AI researcher Stuart Russell, who is a University of California, Berkeley, professor.

JUAN MABROMATA / Staff/Getty Images

In 2019, Russell published Human Compatible, where he explored questions of how humans and machines could co-exist as machines become smarter by the day. Russell contended that the answer was in designing machines that were uncertain about human preferences, so they wouldn’t pursue their own goals above those of humans. 

He’s also the author of foundational texts in the field, including the widely used textbook “Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach,” which he co-wrote with former UC-Berkeley faculty member Peter Norvig. 

In recent months, Russell has spoken openly about what the rapid development of AI systems means for society as a whole.

In June, he also warned that AI tools like ChatGPT were “starting to hit a brick wall” in terms of how much text there was left for them to ingest. He also said that the advancements in AI could spell the end of the traditional classroom

Peter Norvig played a seminal role directing AI research at Google.Stanford HAI fellow Peter Norvig, who previously lead the core search algorithms group at Google.

Peter Norvig

He spent several in the early 2000s directing the company’s core search algorithms group and later moved into a role as the director of research where he oversaw teams on machine translation, speech recognition, and computer vision. 

Norvig has also rotated through several academic institutions over the years as a former faculty member at UC-Berkeley, former professor at the University of Southern California, and now, a fellow at Stanford’s center for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. 

Norvig told Insider by email that “AI research is at a very exciting moment, when we are beginning to see models that can perform well (but not perfectly) on a wide variety of general tasks.” 

He added, however, that “just as with the Internet, there is a danger that these powerful AI models can be used maliciously by unscrupulous people to spread disinformation rather than information. An important area of current research is to defend against such attacks.”


Timnit Gebru is a computer scientist who’s become known for her work in addressing bias in AI algorithms.After she departed from her role at Google in 2020, Timnit Gebru went on the found the Distributed AI Research Institute.

Kimberly White/Getty Images

Gebru was a research scientist and the technical co-lead of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence team where she published groundbreaking research on biases in machine learning.

Her research, however, also spun out into a larger controversy that she said ultimately led to her being let go from Google in 2020. Google didn’t comment at the time.

By 2021, Gebru founded the Distributed AI Research Institute, which bills itself as a “space for independent, community-rooted AI research, free from Big Tech’s pervasive influence.”

Recently, she warned that AI gold rush will mean companies may neglect implementing necessary guardrails around the technology. 

“Unless there is external pressure to do something different, companies are not just going to self-regulate,” Gebru previously said. “We need regulation and we need something better than just a profit motive.”


British-American computer scientist Andrew Ng founded a massive deep learning project called “Google Brain” in 2011.Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng said he thinks AI will be part of the solution to existential risk.

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The endeavor lead to the Google Cat Project, a milestone in deep learning research in which a massive neural network was trained to detect YouTube videos of cats.

Ng also served as the chief scientist at Chinese technology company Baidu where drove AI strategy. Over the course of his career, he’s authored more than 200 research papers on topics ranging from machine learning to robotics, according to his personal website. 

Beyond his own research, Ng has pioneered developments in online education. He co-founded Coursera along with computer scientist Daphne Koller in 2012, and five years later, founded the education technology company DeepLearning.AI, which has created AI programs on Coursera.  

“I think AI does have risk. There is bias, fairness, concentration of power, amplifying toxic speech, generating toxic speech, job displacement. There are real risks,” he told Bloomberg Technology in May.

He’s added, however, that he’s not convinced that AI will pose some sort of existential risk to humanity. If anything, it’s likely to be part of the solution, he contended. “If you want humanity to survive and thrive for the next thousand years, I would much rather make AI go faster to help us solve these problems rather than slow AI down,” Ng told Bloomberg. 


Coursera co-founder and computer scientist Daphne Koller is a professor at Stanford.Daphne Koller, CEO and Founder of Insitro.


Koller is a decorated academic, a MacArthur Fellow, and author of more than 300 publications with an h-index of over 145, according to her biography from the Broad Institute. 

She’s also an entrepreneur who founded Insitro, a Jeff-Bezos backed startup in 2018, which uses machine learning to facilitate drug discovery. Before that, Koller was the chief computing officer at Calico, Google’s life-extension spinoff. 

“I generally have an allergic reaction to a lot of the hype about AI,” Koller previously told Insider, “but when it comes to interpreting and extracting certain kinds of data, honestly it’s exceeded my expectations.”

Daniela Amodei cofounded AI startup Anthropic in 2021 after an exit from OpenAI.Anthropic cofounder and president Daniela Amodei.


Amodei co-founded Anthropic along with six other OpenAI employees, including her brother Dario Amodei.

They left, in part, because Dario — OpenAI’s lead safety researcher at the time — was concerned that OpenAI’s deal with Microsoft would force it to release products too quickly, and without proper guardrails, Insider previously reported. 

At Anthropic, Amodei is focused on ensuring trust and safety. The company’s chatbot Claude bills itself as an easier-to-use alternative that OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and is already being implemented by companies like Quora and Notion. 

Anthropic relies on what it calls a “Triple H” framework in its research. That stands for Helpful, Honest, and Harmless. That means it relies on human input when training its models, including constitutional AI, in which a customer outlines basic principles on how AI should operate. 

“We all have to simultaneously be looking at the problems of today and really thinking about how to make tractable progress on them while also having an eye on the future of problems that are coming down the pike,” Amodei previously told Insider.


Demis Hassabis has said artificial general intelligence will be here in a few years.Demis Hassabis, the CEO and co-founder of machine learning startup DeepMind.

Samuel de Roman/Getty Images

Hassabis, a former child chess prodigy who studied at Cambridge and University College London, was nicknamed the “superhero of artificial intelligence” by The Guardian back in 2016. 

After a handful of research stints, and a venture in videogames, he founded DeepMind in 2010. He sold the AI lab to Google in 2014 for £400 million where he’s worked on algorithms to tackle issues in healthcare, climate change, and also launched a research unit dedicated to the understanding the ethical and social impact of AI in 2017, according to DeepMind’s website. 

Recently, Hassabis contended that the promise of artificial general intelligence — a theoretical concept that sees AI matching the cognitive abilities of humans — is around the corner.

“I think we’ll have very capable, very general systems in the next few years,” Hassabis said previously, adding that he didn’t see why AI progress would slow down anytime soon.

He added, however, that developing AGI should be executed in a “in a cautious manner using the scientific method.” 

Last year, Deepmind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman launched AI startup Inflection AI along with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and Karén Simonyan — now the company’s chief scientist.Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind, launched Inflection AI in 2022.


The startup, which claims to create “a personal AI for everyone,” most recently raised $1.3 billion in funding in June, according to PitchBook. 

Its chatbot, Pi, which stands for personal intelligence, is trained on large language models similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT or Bard. Pi, however, is designed to be more conversational, and offer emotional support. Suleyman previously described it as a “neutral listener” that can respond to real-life problems. 

“Many people feel like they just want to be heard, and they just want a tool that reflects back what they said to demonstrate they have actually been heard,” Suleyman previously said



USC Professor Kate Crawford focuses on social and political implications of large-scale AI systems.USC Professor Kate Crawford is the author of Atlas of AI and a researchers at Microsoft.

Kate Crawford

Crawford is also the senior principal researcher at Microsoft, and the author of Atlas of AI, a book that draws upon the breadth of her historical research to uncover how AI is shaping society. 

Crawford remains both optimistic and cautious about the state of AI development. She told Insider by email she’s excited about the people she works with across the world “who are committed to more sustainable, consent-based, and equitable approaches to using generative AI.”

She added, however, that “if we don’t approach AI development with care and caution, and without the right regulatory safeguards, it could produce extreme concentrations of power, with dangerously anti-democratic effects.”

Margaret Mitchell is the chief ethics scientist at Hugging Face.Margaret Mitchell has headed AI projects at several big tech companies.

Margaret Mitchell

Mitchell has published more than 100 papers over the course of her career, according to her website, and spearheaded AI projects across various big tech companies including Microsoft and Google. 

In late 2020, Mitchell published a paper on the dangers of large language models, along with Timnit Gebru, who was then the co-lead of Google’s ethical artificial intelligence. The paper spurred disagreements between the researchers and Google’s management, ultimately leading to Gebru’s departure from the company in December 2020. Mitchell was terminated by Google just two months later, in February 2021

Now, at Hugging Face — an open-source data science and machine learning platform that was founded in 2016 — she’s thinking about how to democratize access to the tools necessary to building and deploying large-scale AI models.  

In an interview with Morning Brew, where Mitchell explained what it means to design responsible AI she said, “I started on my path toward working on what’s now called AI in 2004, specifically with an interest in aligning AI closer to human behavior. Over time, that’s evolved to become less about mimicking humans and more about accounting for human behavior and working with humans in assistive and augmentative ways.”

Navrina Singh is the founder of Credo AI, an AI governance platform.Navrina Singh, the founder of Credo AI, says the system may help people reach their potential.

Navrina Singh

Credo AI is essentially a platform that helps companies make sure they’re in compliance with the growing body of regulations around AI usage. 

In a statement to Insider, Singh said that by automating the systems that shape our lives, AI has the capacity “free us to realize our potential in every area where it’s implemented.” 

At the same time, she contends that algorithms right now lack the human judgement that’s necessary to adapt to a changing world. 

“As we integrate AI into civilization’s fundamental infrastructure, these tradeoffs take on existential implications,” Singh wrote. “As we forge ahead, the responsibility to harmonize human values and ingenuity with algorithmic precision is non-negotiable. Responsible AI governance is paramount.”


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