Who are your favorite CMU professors
Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is particularly suffering from bloodletting. It is famous for its AI and robot program, but the taxi app Uber alone poached 40 employees from the elite university's robot center three years ago. Facebook has also just secured two professors for the new AI laboratories. Also, according to media reports, Manuela Veloso, Carnegie Mellon's head of machine learning research, joined JPMorgan Chase.
There, too, there is now an interest in artificial intelligence. In any case, it is no longer just IT companies vying for the few AI experts. Car manufacturers need them for self-driving cars, industrial companies like Siemens for automated factories, and agricultural corporations for smarter seed machines. In addition to the large corporations, there are thousands of AI start-ups that have recently invested a lot of venture capital. Some of them too have entered the great competition for the best new employees.
In addition to teaching, research naturally also suffers when professors give up their chairs. In the private sector, the research focus of the experts is usually shifting. Instead of tinkering with basic topics, the direct benefits of which may remain hidden for years, but bring about fundamental breakthroughs, they tend to work in industry on products that can be used to make money quickly.
"The question naturally arises to what extent corporations like Google or Facebook should determine the research agenda in the future," says Etzioni. At least he hopes that a few top scientists are so competitive that they can still work on their favorite topics on the side. Even if this only benefits the new employer indirectly. A top name in your own ranks is enough to attract numerous new talents.
"Nowadays, top universities cannot produce graduates with the necessary AI qualifications fast enough"
Etzioni hopes that the companies will show more insight in the future and allow all professors to freely divide their working hours. You could then, for example, continue to teach half of the time at the universities. A model that most colleagues supposedly want. On the one hand, they can pocket the high salaries in the private sector and no longer have to waste time on costly funding applications. On the other hand, they would like to continue to train the next generation. So much university enthusiasm has remained.
The Silicon Valley corporations will probably soon reach a natural limit: it is impossible for them to hire all the AI experts from outside. That is why the employees are now increasingly trained internally. Facebook's AI laboratories have become a role model for others, Google operates similar research centers and the career network LinkedIn has announced that it is starting an internal training program called the "AI Academy".
"Nowadays, top universities cannot produce graduates with the necessary AI qualifications fast enough," summarizes LinkedIn chief engineer Craig Martell. That's why his company has become a trainer for AI experts. Even if that is more difficult than soliciting talent elsewhere.
The race has long since become a national affair. For decades, the US has been at the forefront of research and development on AI. However, the Chinese government has resolved that its own AI industry will be worth 150 billion dollars by 2030 and will be a global leader. That is worth billions in investments for the country. America naturally wants to counter this. However, many experts criticize Donald Trump for concentrating too much on old industries such as steel and coal. Instead, they are calling for more investment in AI, for example as support for universities. In any case, Trump's foreclosure rhetoric and the stricter visa issuance do not help to attract foreign experts.
More Chinese students are now returning to their home country after graduating from the United States. The Chinese Internet companies Tencent and Alibaba campaigned aggressively for university graduates at a large AI conference in New Orleans in February. Google, in turn, set up an AI center in Beijing this spring to recruit talent in China. The tech companies have also put out feelers in other countries.
Amazon, for example, has an AI center near Cambridge University in England and is planning a similar facility in Barcelona. That won't be enough in the long run. "We have to put AI research on a broader basis if we want to remain fit for the future," says the scientist Etzioni. He thinks of even more people from abroad and more women. He doesn't think about the violin-playing Facebook Avatar.
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