Baidu stock down after chief scientist leaves company

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Andrew Ng

Baidu shares fell on Wednesday, after chief scientist Andrew Ng announced he is leaving the company less than three years after joining.

Ng announced his departure in a post on Medium late Tuesday. Baidu shares were down more than 1½ percent in market hours, trading around 168.51.

Ng had joined the company in 2014 to help help develop new businesses around artificial intelligence and machine learning, areas Baidu has previously identified as a major strategic focus.

Baidu told the Financial Times it will not hire a direct replacement, but instead move Ng’s teams into the AI Group, which will be headed by current vice president Haifeng Wang.

Ng did not say exactly what he plans to do next, but he did suggest he wants to work on projects involving autonomous cars, computer-human conversation and health care.

“I want all of us to have self-driving cars; conversational computers that we can talk to naturally; and healthcare robots that understand what ails us,” Ng wrote. “The industrial revolution freed humanity from much repetitive physical drudgery; I now want AI to free humanity from repetitive mental drudgery, such as driving in traffic. This work cannot be done by any single company — it will be done by the global AI community of researchers and engineers.”

These goals fit some of what Ng did at Baidu: In the two years he was there, he helped start an autonomous car business division, and the DuerOS platform, which was a kind of competitor to home assistant services and devices such as Apple’s Siri, the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Ng joined the company from Coursera, an online learning company he co-founded in 2012. Prior to that, Ng was a co-founder of the Google Brain project. While at Baidu, Ng worked out of both Beijing and Silicon Valley offices.

“This is a big blow to Baidu’s strategy on artificial intelligence and a setback of the company’s internationalization,” Fang Xingdong, founder of internet strategy think tank ChinaLabs, told The Wall Street Journal.