Tech Giants Are Luring Away Universities' AI Leaders, May Cause Next Gen's Brain Drain


Tech giants like Google, Baidu and Facebook are luring away top researchers for computer science at universities to work for them. There are concerns that this could lead to the degradation of the next generation's skills and knowledge in terms of artificial intelligence.

Last week, Google hired the director of Stanford University's artificial intelligence laboratory to lead a new AI unit, The Wall Street Journal reported. Fei-Fei Li admitted that she joined the search engine giant to "democratize AI."

The publication noted that Li has joined several other academic stars in artificial intelligence who have been lured away by tech giants. Other known researchers who left their academic posts to pursue tech industry posts are University of Toronto's Geoffrey Hinton who joined Google, New York University's Yann LeCun who joined Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University's Alex Smola who moved to Amazon.

There are some who continue to work as professors and researchers for universities, albeit at diminished capacities. Andrew Ng, who is also from Stanford University, is still an associate professor in the school's Department of Computer Science. He is also the Chief Scientist at Baidu.

Experts have issued a warning that tech companies are doing more harm to universities by draining them of the researchers who can cultivate the next generation of scientists. Aside from this reason, these researchers are the ones who can help solve the problems in various fields from astronomy to environmental science to physics.

There are more students who are taking Ph.D.s in the field of computer science. However, according to the Computing Research Association, the number of scientists staying in schools has hit "a historic low."

"People are starting to question whether we are, in some sense, jeopardizing our ability to meet industry demand in the future," Mark Riedl, the director of the Georgia Institute of Technology's Entertainment Intelligence Lab, said.

"I am concerned that it will slow down our [rate of] discovery in the university and research labs because some of the best and brightest won't be here," Sue Haupt of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, added.

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