Whoda thunk? An AI project brings together an unlikely alliance

Big Tech, academia, and the federal government could collaborate on AI efforts.

July 1, 2020

Can’t we all just get along? Apparently we can… as long as we’re talking about AI.

As The New York Times reports, the National Research Cloud would combine Big Tech’s vast resources with the research muscle of academic heavyweights — all to drive advances in artificial intelligence.

The effort’s gotten bipartisan support from both the House and the Senate, as well as institutions like Stanford, Ohio State, and Carnegie Mellon. Plus buy-in from IBM, Google, and Amazon.

Wait… what’s the National Research Cloud?

The project aims to use advances in AI tech to keep the US economy competitive with China. And to strengthen the national defense.

Basically, the government will supply the funding, Big Tech will supply the infrastructure, and academia will supply the brainpower.

The brainpower element is vital: In the past, academic researchers nurtured new technology until it was ready for companies to run with. But lately, researchers have left the Ivory Tower for the warmer waters of Big Tech careers.

So how will this work?

The companies will own the cloud centers. Academic researchers will get government subsidies to become customers of these tech titans, who ideally would charge the same discounted rates they do their business partners.

The arrangement could be a win-win-win.

Universities could have everything they need to drive pioneering research, tech companies could count on federal funding and the fruits of future innovation, and the government could shore up national interests.

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