Is Silicon Valley pricing academics out of AI research?

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Amidst the excitement of up-and-coming artificial intelligence (AI) models, there is growing concern among academics that the hefty price of working with the technology is compromising independent research. 

As tech giants such as Meta, Google and Microsoft divert insurmountable sums towards AI, the gap between industry research and the public sector grows, as universities are unable to fund the computing power necessary to keep up with the caliber and frequency of industry breakthroughs. High salaries further incentivize talent to join the ranks of industry. As a result, academics must often collaborate with tech companies to receive adequate support. In AI’s formative years, academics argue that this power dynamic is shaping the field, with an emphasis on profit-driven development rather than for social good.

David Evan Harris, a CITRIS Policy Lab affiliate and chancellor’s public scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, notes that even if companies do not censor research, they can influence what areas receive more attention.

“Anytime you see a mix of authors who are employed by a company and authors who work at a university, you should really scrutinize the motives of the company for contributing to that work,” says Harris. “We used to look at people employed in academia to be neutral scholars, motivated only by the pursuit of truth and the interest of society.”

Read more in the Washington Post.