AI safety research outfit MIRI say they’re thinking of leaving Berkeley on account of:
… the housing crisis and other governance failures, advantages and disadvantages of the local culture, tail risks of things taking a turn for the worse in the future, and other factors.
Translated from rationalese to /pol/speak, they’re presumably saying they don’t want to stay in the new “designated shitting streets” capital of the world and pay high taxes for the privilege.
This would be highly symbolic – just as Tesla is perhaps the “hottest” new kid on the block to pack up its bags and move to Texas, so too the “prophets” of the Singularity are mooting following suite. The solution to the “control problem” in AI, if it ever happens, will probably not come from Berkeley.
The SF Bay Area is perhaps the the crown jewel in America’s global brain drain machine.
Silicon Valley – and by extension the US – have enjoyed the privileges of a massive cluster effect. All kinds of tech startups, not just those based in the US, have wanted to move there just to be within the densest concentration of startups, VCs, tech angel investors, etc. on the planet. It is ironic that this is true for an industry whose prime function is to dematerialize person to person contacts onto the virtual ether, but that’s the way it is. It’s difficult to understate the scale of this clustering advantage – of the world’s ~3,500 AI startups, about 600 are located are located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
But all systems have their breaking point and Silicon Valley might be close to it . In a further irony, it is perhaps Corona which will, in retrospect, be seen to have dealt the deathblow. The same forces that propelled tech stock valuations into the stratosphere as people began to work from home and the monetary spigots were loosened have also devalued Silicon Valley’s core remaining advantage.
Within the US, the net effect may well be to just redistribute the tech industry across other centers, such as Boston and Austin. But will they be able to recapture Silicon Valley’s global luster? That’s far less clear – none have Silicon Valley’s “brand”, or the cluster effect at its disposal through decades of concentration of money and talent. The second largest US tech node, Boston, has ~100 AI startups; Austin has 36. Most likely, European startups that would have previously changed HQs to Mountain View to IPO will prefer stay in place.