Google co-founder Larry Page gave a talk called “Stanford and Google and the World, Oh My!” today. A few tidbits I didn’t know:
Most of the company goes on a ski trip to Tahoe every year. People ask when that tradition will end, as Google is no longer a small company (Page emphasizes that Google is medium-sized, not large). Page pointed out that the relative cost of sending most employees on the company outing is the same whether you have seven employees and leave one to mind the servers (as was the case on the first trip) or some larger numbers in similar proportions. The company culture doesn’t have to change (the purpose of the talk, followed by an info-session I didn’t stay for, was to recruit Stanford students). Ok, that tidbit was relatively boring, but easy to drop into conversation with most any crowd.
In order to hire more engineers, Google is adding engineering campuses in Manhattan, Switzerland, and India. Why those locations? They’re places where people already working for Google want to move. (Page quipped that India is someplace people want to move back to, unlike most places. I doubt the latter. I recall reportage of the phenomenon of people returning to Hong Kong and Ireland. People will go anywhere opportunity is to be found. If it is “home”, so much the better.) Immigration policies also made a difference: apparently it is easier for a spouse of a sponsored worker to work legally in Switzerland than in most places, and many good people are being kicked out of the U.S., a phenomenon Page decried. I strongly concur. By the way, 1) if there’s a race to the bottom for knowledge workers, Google is crazy for opening new offices in two of the most expensive places in the world, 2) on the way home I heard two Indian women talking about their immigration bureaucracy travails, and 3) Apartheid sucks.
One of Page’s slides was a picture of HAL’s front plate. AI is the goal of every computer scientist he says, excepting the scared ones. If Google can accurately answer any arbitrary query, you have AI. Google has many AI projects, some of them highly speculative (no details given). Eliezer Yudkowsky has often written that Google is the source of all truth and the like, but now he may be frightened, as I doubt Google engineers buy his friendly AI imperative.