Amazon, with an eye on AI, adds Andrew Ng to its board. Former MTV executive McGrath resigns.

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If the decisions of corporate boards of directors can indicate where a company wants to focus, Amazon’s board just made an interesting move. The company announced Thursday that Andrew Ng, known for building AI at major tech companies, is joining its board of directors. The company also said that Jodie McGrath — best known for her work as a longtime TV executive, running MTV and helping Viacom become a media powerhouse — is a director. Will resign from the post.

Taken together, the two moves paint an interesting picture of the tech giant’s intentions.

After several expensive years building an entertainment empire (Amazon will spend about $19 billion on its video and music businesses in 2023), it’s interesting to see McGrath, who would have been a key advocate and adviser on that strategy . , is not going to stand for re-election.

she is no That’s not to say that Amazon won’t continue to be a dominant force in streaming entertainment, whether it’s video, music, gaming or anything else. The company is now moving into advertising in Prime Video, which is a big reason it wants to keep its audience happy and coming back.

Still, it will be interesting to see how investments in the sector play out in 2024. The company has laid off hundreds of employees in its studio and video divisions, and has also spun off Prime Video in some regions, indicating the business may be smaller going forward. And given the AI ​​whiplash that every major tech company is currently dealing with, it feels timely that McGrath is now stepping down from the board.

To stay at the forefront of the tech industry, Amazon will be looking for better thought leadership on the next steps of its artificial intelligence strategy.

It’s worth remembering that Amazon has long been a leading player in AI. Its Alexa Assistant and Echo devices have done much to put voice recognition and connected assistants on the map. The company operates autonomous services in air and ground delivery, and in-store shopping; It uses machine learning to determine how to target products; AWS is a major player in AI compute. And it has invested billions in major AI startups of late.

Yet, for at least a year, in the wake of OpenAI’s GPT development, Amazon has grappled with the perception (internally and externally) that it is “falling behind” on the technology.

It is true? Is it just optics? Regardless, Ng’s appointment can only help raise Amazon’s profile in the AI ​​realm, as the company stands to gain more thought leadership on real innovation in the space, not just follow-on. Making moves.

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Ng is a potential triple-threat board appointment: He has experience in academia, investment and construction, and has typically held all three roles simultaneously. He is currently an adjunct professor at Stanford; a general partner in a venture studio called AI Fund; He is the head of edtech company DeepLearning.AI. And He is the founder of computer vision startup Landing AI. And he’s also the chair of Coursera, another edtech startup he founded and led.

Ng also served as chief scientist and VP at Chinese search company Beidou, and founded and led Google Brain. That The search giant’s first major step in building AI tech and implementing it across its products.

Amazon did not provide a statement from Ng in its announcement. We’ve reached out to him directly, and we’ll update when and if we hear back.

It may feel like a new wave of companies and thinkers are setting the pace in AI, but the Amazons of the world are certainly not standing idly by.

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