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Apple machine learning boss defects to Google over return-to-office policy

A former Apple executive who oversaw the company’s machine learning efforts has left the company due to its strict return-to-office policy, and has now rocked up at rival Google.

Until a few weeks ago, Ian Goodfellow was a director of machine learning within Apple’s Special Projects Group. His brief involved supervising engineers working on Apple’s big autonomous technology push.

Now Goodfellow has left Apple, and according to a Bloomberg source, he has cited Apple’s lack of flexibility in its working policies as a major reason for his departure.

There’s an extra sting in the tail for Apple’s executive team, as Goodfellow has now taken a job at DeepMind, which is arch rival Google’s AI division. Goodfellow has history with Google, having worked as a senior researcher there until joining Apple in 2019.

Apple’s post-lockdown return-to-the-office policy has appeared to be more stringent than some of its tech rivals (including Google). From May 23, Apple was insisting its corporate employees work from the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The company has now delayed that move amidst widespread objections, and will run a pilot scheme that sees some employees returning for two days a week over the coming weeks.

Goodfellow is the most senior and high profile Apple employee to leave over Apple’s firm stance. He’s known for creating generative adversarial networks, or GANs, which can create images and data sets with extreme accuracy – useful for video games and astronomy, but also for the less noble field of deepfakes.

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