Software is Eating Science

I’ve left this blog on a bit of a hiatus due to a number of other projects taking up the majority of my time. In an effort to revive the blog, I’m experimenting with tweet-storm blog posts. For those unfamiliar, tweet storms are a rapid fire sequence of tweets which tell a story or make an argument. I tweet more often than I write blog posts, so occasionally I’ll transcribe some of my tweet storms in blog form.

Here’s a lightly edited recent tweet storm with some thoughts on how the center of science in America has been shifting away from universities and national labs to Silicon Valley and tech companies.

1/ Silicon Valley is becoming the new center of science.

2/ This is a thought I’ve been forming for some time. I’m trained classically in the academic system.

3/ Did my undergrad at Berkeley, research, came to Stanford thinking I wanted to be a professor.

4/ But over the last few years, been watching projects and papers I find inspiring.

5/ More and more these seem to be coming from companies or corporate labs or startups.

6/ Deep learning research is dominated by Google, DeepMind, OpenAI, etc.

7/ Quantum computing research is being pushed forward by the corporate sector.

8/ Block chain and Bitcoin aren’t from the University either.

9/ There’s exceptions (CRISPR is the big one), but I think these exceptions prove the rule.

10/ Why is this happening? My personal theory is that grant money has become progressively harder to get.

11/ While capital for startups is abundant and easy to get.

12/ Sebastian Thrun has a flying car company. I don’t imagine there’s any grant that would have let him do that :)

13/ Is this good or bad that silicon valley is dominating science?

14/ I don’t know. The old research system has found many good inventions, and the newer system is much less proven.

15/ I would love to see more federal funding appear, but the current environment doesn’t seem conducive.

16/ We live in interesting times for science, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the situation evolves :)

17/ Put simply, software is eating science :)

Written on May 27, 2017