back to article AI brain drain to Google and pals threatens public sector's ability to moderate machine-learning bias

Boffins from Denmark and the UK have measured the AI brain drain and found that private industry really is soaking up tech talent at the expense of academia and public organizations. In a paper [PDF] distributed via ArXiv, authors Roman Jurowetzki and Daniel Hain, from Aalborg University Business School, and Juan Mateos-Garcia …

  1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

    What's to worry?

    Google has shown that any ethical AI folks are not welcome there.

  2. jpo234

    ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.’

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That doesn't match my experience of Research Scientists. They mostly dislike teaching anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        At least the dislike teaching part tracks

        Though they are still "doing" in that sense, just for a lot less pay.

        The oft overused barb should really be reserved for the back benchers who punch the clock for lack of other options, and offer little to the students that suffer through them. The best minds in a field may also be terrible teachers too, so I'd like to keep the hate and heat where it belongs. Teachers have a job to do, and students have a need learn that should be central focus of education. Toxic or inept professors have no place in a classroom, and good teachers that are of average ability will outperform either at the actual job of teaching students.

    2. A random security guy

      If you want to learn a subject, try teaching it. I estimate I spend week for an hour training on security.

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Not a new trend

    This has been happening since Symbolics hired most of the people away from MIT's AI Labs

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Not a new trend

      As a child in the 1970s, I read a book called "the Brain Drain", which was about US companies syphoning off British academic scientists...

  4. not.known@this.address

    Do AIs always act 'for the public good'?

    I cannot help wondering if Skynet might not have had a secondary function of assisting to maintain public order, like Blue Thunder's (the film, not the helicopter) "Project Thor". It might have been built for the military, but Cyberdyne Systems was a private company...

  5. ThatOne Silver badge

    Studying the obvious

    People tend to go to whoever pays best? What a revelation! What's next, a study highlighting popes tend to be catholic?

    Of course the best minds will go to Google, because it offers salaries the public sector can't even dream of. And of course this happens in the "trendy" domains like AI, from which Google hopes to make big money. I'm sure Google hires very few astrophysicists or paleontologists, for instance.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Studying the obvious

      You'd be a bit of a fool if the money was the only thing you looked at. I've had well paid jobs and have left them for lesser paid jobs with better work conditions or better opportunities to use new technology and advance my knowledge.

      I could earn a lot more than I do now, but it would mean moving to a big city and actually having less in my pocket at the end of the month, due to higher costs of living and it would be more stress and I couldn't take an evening stroll in the countryside. The work-life balance is just as, if not more important than pure monetary considerations.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Studying the obvious

        > jobs with better work conditions or better opportunities

        Of course. I used money as a proxy for the general desirability of a job.

        Of course working for Google would give you a better/bigger lab, more funding, and generally working on the cutting edge instead of spending your days filling administrative paperwork to replace the light bulb in your office.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Studying the obvious

      Quite so, ThatOne, the public sector with its parasitic governmental administrations freely gorging itself and sticking the electorate with the bills for its fantastical projects which are practically wholly dependent upon the private sector delivering the goods for a price that parasites do not control, is always going to trail and flounder in the wake of the pioneering rogue entrepreneur and private pirate operand tapping into the need and greed of the money marketeers, and that is especially so in the novel case of virile and even virulent AI, given what AI can so easily now do without any viable competition or effective opposition to hinder its unfettered progress in the direction of goals chosen by its enabling future drivers.

      And yes, there is also that other lucrative and extremely rewarding sector to consider where money appears to grown trees and is always made available by the pallet load to those select principals able to provide the right weapon to defeat and overwhelm any enemy or non-friend ..... the Private Military Contractor and/or Almighty Arms Dealer ....... and that is a sector which has an extremely generous and ACTive customer client base virtually everywhere one can think of.

      Indeed, for some more than just lucky, can both of those base root avenues be extensively explored and energetically engagingly exploited to deliver the goods which delight product suppliers to excel at project and goal provision.

      That's the attraction one is certainly battling against in the AI arena and that which tempts the best of brains away from a life that is more mundane and prosaic and clearly not so well rewarded with loads of fiat.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Studying the obvious but with nevertheless and however caveats

        Take care though, and beware, and be aware money, so they say, is the root of all evil today.

        And many is the captivated fool and retarded soul and blunt tool worshipping at that fake altar of a surreal artificial power that exercises remote command and control of the less than heavenly gifted trapped into a life of ignorant servitude to such as worship at fake altars

        Take a pause for thought and ponder on what Pink Floyd [who you must admit would know a thing or two or three about money] say on the subject .......

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The diagram neatly omits students who go on to become academics.

    It is far more common for people to move from academia into industry. They are usually replaced by people completing their PhDs...

  7. NIck Hunn

    What is University for?

    This seems to assume that the main purpose of university is to produce more academics, rather than educating people to play a useful role throughout society, so that we can continue to pay our academics.

    Maybe we should base academic payscales on how many of their student got successful jobs?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      base academic payscales on how many of their student got successful jobs

      Nope, it would just make the gaming of the system worse, just the way the existing school rankings do. They only care about getting your backside into someplace long enough to count as a hire, and will gladly sign deals with sweatshops if they will take a regular cut of their grads off the schools hands, even if jobs don't last, and are resume poison.

      It's better to separate the legitimate and important parts of academic research in the University system from the mission to educate. Let those that excel at teaching do so, and reward them accordingly. Let those that excel at research do so, and reward them well enough to keep doing high quality research.

      What we don't need is a system that is based on skimming most of a families savings and income, and years of each students future earnings. All just to buy access to a social tier based on having, or not having a piece of paper. Employers know most peoples degrees are a joke, and have nothing to do with the work they will be doing, even in fields like journalism, which has a specific degree track linked to it. Sure mechanical engineering, EE and some of them track, but 85% of grads are in majors with little to no bearing on their future careers. Other degrees(Lookin at you CS) lack training in essential skills while loading students with crippling loads of theoretical BS and required coarse bloat that don't track with the industry the degree targets.

      Additionally, if companies won't hire those without degrees you incentivize a system that becomes predatory, as people will pay almost anything to give their kids a better life so the degree costs spiral out of control while education suffers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: base academic payscales on how many of their student got successful jobs


        The people who don't get the point of algorithm analysis and the theoretical aspects of programming are why I was considered a top tier consultant with commensurate pay scales most of my career.

        Programming is mostly art and science; the people who claim otherwise are in fantasy land churning out bloated code that only runs until we run out of room with Moore's Law, which isn't far off.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: base academic payscales on how many of their student got successful jobs


          "run out of room with Moore's Law, which isn't far off."

          Years ago working on some little worthless project I suggested it would be worth 'proving' the distribution of outputs from our little project. My manager stated this was impossible as it was a recursive problem with an exponential number of 'routes' to produce the outcome.

          I disagreed and let him code his version of such a test which quickly died through lack of memory. Given less code and not blowing out memory with irrelevant data I changed the code so it worked and the price of longer 'routes' was just time

    2. A random security guy

      Re: What is University for?

      Useful role in society ...

      Google had pretenses about that concept.

      With the salaries they offer, I doubt there will any left to do anything other than to provide a useful role for Google.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is University for?

      Bingo! Most Professors consider the teaching aspects of the job to be drudge work to slough off on the grad students under them. They consider themselves "elite researchers", and often have an arrogance beyond pall, and the number of prickly and over-sensitive personalities in their ranks are far beyond the norm for society.

      They think their job is to do research and produce more researchers, not to educate students to be contributing members of society, earning the money and making the profits that PAY for the professors' positions.

      But like most people on the receiving end of government or institutional money, they tend to forget that the money doesn't just magically appear at the filling out of a form.

  8. TheMeerkat

    Timnit Gebru was not an AI researcher, she was “ethics” researcher. Which is about producing “politically correct” results, not actual research into AI.

  9. codejunky Silver badge


    The claim that private companies may not be over ethical is possible. But what is the alternative? If the amusing thought is that academia should lead in ethics then we have a problem.

    Also the problem of people being fired if they dont research along the 'employed' lines is still no different. Toe the line or get out is a real problem. The good news from this is the vast money poured into research, and it doesnt need to come from government (taxpayers) pockets.

  10. Tron Bronze badge

    Simple solution

    Legislate to require that any system allows a user to turn the 'AI' off. They can start with Google Search, which has been getting worse for years, most likely due to some half baked 'AI'.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The big bucks aren't interested in second-class researchers and professors; they want the top talent from the top labs and schools, and they're willing to pay to get it.

    Funny how that hasn't improved any professors salaries at any of the schools, no matter where their "brain drain" is going.

    When I left my home province of Saskatchewan in the late '80s, many people were doing the same, and there were all kinds of articles about how people were leaving as soon as they got an education. But salaries and job prospects didn't improve much in a province of only a shade over a million people, and people continue to leave for greener (and better paying) pastures.

    They still haven't learned their lessons here. Everyone I know is working remote contracts nowadays. No one wants the local low-paying, poor benefits jobs.

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