Facebook is opening 2 new AI research labs in Seattle and Pittsburgh, poaching talent from local universities, and prompting fears that AI research is being privatized.
Facebook has a thing for AI, and so does Google. And they both have almost limitless means to poach the best talent and make it near impossible for universities or other non-profit research centers to compete in terms of salaries, and, more often than not, work conditions.
This is raising concerns among the research community, that by taking AI experts away from universities, Facebook is not only privatizing research, but also removing the people who should have been teaching the next generation of researchers.
“It is worrisome that they are eating the seed corn,” Dan Weld, a computer science professor at the University of Washington told the New York Times. “If we lose all our faculty, it will be hard to keep preparing the next generation of researchers.”
However, Facebook’s director of AI research, Yann LeCun, insists that Facebook is not “poaching” experts from universities, but working to create a model where both can benefit. As he explains,
“Professors gain a different type of experience in an industry that can have a positive impact on their students and on their research. Additionally, their connection with the industry helps produce new scientific advances that may be difficult to achieve in an academic environment and helps turn those advances into practical technology. Universities are familiar with the concept of faculty with part-time appointments in industry. It is common in medicine, law, and business.”
Facebook wants to be leading the way in AI research. Most of its business is based on successfully developing AI platforms that will improve its user experience – like image recognition software for example, but also new ways to filter hate speech.