Google’s DeepMind finds way around academic brain drain
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Google’s DeepMind finds way around academic brain drain

Google’s DeepMind – widely considered to be the most advanced artificial intelligence (AI) company in the world – has announced that it will open its first non-UK research facility in Edmonton Canada. To do so, it has hired three leading academics from the University of Alberta, bringing the total number of Alberta alumni at DeepMind to “about a dozen” according to to DeepMind’s CEO and co-founder Demis Hassabis. This continues a trend that has some academics worried: the poaching of top academic talent by huge tech companies.

Alphabet’s share price is up by 17% so far this year

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SOURCE: Yahoo Finance

Technology companies have always been industry employers of promising computer science graduates. But over the last five years, a race to conquer AI has vastly expanded their hiring. Google, Facebook, Baidu, and others have been mopping up senior academics in the field at an alarming rate. Perhaps the most obvious example came in 2015, when Uber hired around 50 researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics lab – about a third of the center’s entire staff.

AI researcher Yoshua Bengio from the University of Montreal has concerns about this causing a brain-drain in academia, and what that could mean for technological developments going forward. In an email, he said:

“This is creating a concern that the huge demand for supervision of graduate students won’t be met, which in the long run is bad for industry too. If in the future these industries stop doing as much basic research as they do now (this has happened in the past), these people will be stuck in industry. This phenomenon could also be detrimental to academia and basic research in the long run.”

However, Google’s new hires won’t be leaving academia. Rather, they will work between DeepMind and the University of Alberta, taking a salary from each, and bringing new levels of collaboration between the worlds of business and academics. Bengio is a fan. He says: “I believe those companies have a duty, when they strike such deals, to find ways to give back to academia, to help recruit other (maybe younger) professors and fund more graduate students.”

In short, Google may have found a way to prolong the age of AI advancements, which is great for the company, the sector, and all of us.

Disclosure

Dominion holds Alphabet, the parent of Google, in its Global Trends Managed Fund.


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