Nearly 60% of tenure-track AI faculty at four universities — Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, and the University of Toronto — have received financial support from big tech companies, according to a new study. Leading the study were Toronto AI grad student Mohamed Abdalla and his brother Moustafa Abdalla, who said that such funding shows how 14 prominent tech firms can potentially distort the academic landscape to suit their needs.
- The Abdallas looked at the resumes of 35 AI-focused computer science faculty at the four universities. They weren't able to make a determination for 52 of the faculty.
- Of the remaining 83, 48 has received fellowships, grants, or other funding from Alibaba, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Element AI, Facebook, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Nvidia, OpenAI, Samsung, and/or Uber.
- Mohamed Abdalla said there are "very few people" in AI-related academia who "don't have some sort of connection to Big Tech." He compared Big Tech to Big Tobacco, saying both use similar strategies to "sway and influence academic and public discourse."
- Google says the company policies bar staff from trying to influence academic work. UC Berkeley's Ben Recht says academics can generate ethically questionable work even without industry funding. “You can make a capitalist argument that it is good for companies to pursue ethical technology,” he noted.