A key theme in my conversations both with Jade (see above
) and with Ian Hogarth in the first TiB podcast episode
is the importance of global competition for machine learning talent in this (presumably) early phase of AI’s development. What can states do to attract the top talent needed to bootstrap a strategic capability in AI? An interesting new paper
by scholars at Perry House and the Future of Humanity Institute looks at the immigration preferences of around 500 top AI researchers to try to answer this question.
The results are encouraging for the US and, to a lesser extent, the UK. Nearly 60 percent of top researchers not based in the US say they think there is a good chance they would move there in the near future - compared to 35 percent for the UK and just 10 percent for China. Broadly, in terms of intrinsic attractiveness, the US is well positioned to be the destination of choice for the world’s leading AI talent, with China having to rely on its - obviously large - homegrown talent pool (though the sample was rather underweight Chinese researchers).
The biggest barrier facing both the US and the UK is their own immigration policies. Visa and immigration concerns were the most cited reason for reluctance to stay in or move to the US - and higher than for any other country. Meanwhile, the UK has the lowest proportion of foreign researchers who say they are likely to stay put for at least the next three years. Given the stakes and the small numbers involved, making immigration hassle-free for PhDs in machine learning is about close to a free lunch in technology policy as I can imagine.