What Can Slow Down the GOOG? Lawyers Reviewing AI Research Papers

October 21, 2021

I spotted an allegedly true factoid in “Google’s AI Researchers Say Their Output Is Being Slowed by Lawyers after a String of High Level Exits : Getting Published Really Is a Nightmare Right Now.” Here is the paywalled item:

According to Google’s own online records, the company published 925 pieces of AI research in 2019, and a further 962 in 2020. But the company looks to have experienced a moderate slowdown this
year, publishing just 618 research papers in all of 2021 thus far. 

Quite a decrease, particularly in the rarified atmosphere of the smartest people in the world who want to be in a position to train, test, deploy, and benefit from their smart software.

With management and legal cooks in the Google AI kitchen, the production of AI delicacies seems to be going down. Bad for careers? Good for lawyers? Yes and yes.

Is this a surprise? It depends on whom one asks.

At a time when there is chatter that VCs want to pump money into smart software and when some high profile individuals suggest China is the leader in artificial intelligence, the Google downturn in this facet of research is not good news for the GOOG.

Is there a fix? Sure, but none is going to include turning back the hands of time to undo what I call the Battle of Timnit. The decision to try and swizzle around the issue of baked in algorithmic bias appears to have blocked some Google researchers’ snorkels. Deep dives without free flowing research oxygen can be debilitating.

Stephen E Arnold, October 21, 2021

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