Americans will have to hope that a lottery can bring in more talented immigrants. After just 5 days, the 85,000 visa quota for high-skilled immigrants has been maxed out, two-months faster than last year. Now, eager immigrants will have to submit to a lottery for a chance to work in the U.S.
High-skilled immigration reform is a top priority for the nation’s technology sector. Nearly a quarter of engineering and technology companies had at least one foreign-born founder, and have been responsible for many of the most profitable firms, from PayPal to Google.
Unfortunately, high-skilled immigration reform has been stalled in the U.S. Congress until it can pass comprehensive reform. For a more thorough run-down on the arguments on both sides, check out a debate we held between high-skilled reform expert, Vivek Wadhwa, and Congressman Gutierrez.
A draft of the comprehensive immigration reform law is expected to hit Congress this month. Expect a a long, vicious fight.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
World-renowned artificial intelligence expert and Google’s new Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, wants to build a search engine so sophisticated that it could act like a ‘cybernetic friend,’ who knows users better than they know themselves. “I envision in some years that the majority of search queries will be answered without you actually asking,” he said at an intimate gathering at Singularity University’s NASA campus.
Kurzweil, a noted futurist and engineer, tells me in a rare follow-up interview that CEO Larry Page offered him the job after learning of his intention to start a company to build his long-held dream of an artificially intelligent computer. “Why don’t you do that here?” Page asked him. “Google is quite unique,” explains Kurzweil, on his decision to head to the search giant, rather than venture out on his own. “It fundamentally deals with language.”
Language, Kurzweil argues, is the window to creating a genuine artificial brain, that can understand the meaning of ideas and concepts. “If you write a blog post, you’re not just creating a bag of words, you’re creating some meaningful sentences.” For now, search engines have brute-force algorithms that pick out key words in popular pages and hope that the results, on average, will yield the best information.
So-called “semantic” search parses the meaning and intentions behind words. Semantic search aims to solve the ‘hotdog’ problem, as explained by Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt,
“Is it a ‘hot dog’ or a ‘hotdog.’ And, if you knew something about whether the person had dogs, or whether the person was a vegetarian, you’d have a very different potential answer to that question.”
Eventually Google will understand why users are searching for information and provide them with answers they didn’t even know they needed. The education of such an omnipotent new mind will take the vast stores of Google’s database. Perhaps more than any other company, explains Kurzweil, Google has access to the “things you read, what you write, in your emails or blog posts, and so on, even your conversations, what you hear, what you say.”
Google can combine the personalized recommendations of a friend (who often know us better than we know ourselves) with the sum of all human knowledge, creating a sort of super best friend.
This friend of yours, this cybernetic friend, that knows that you that have certain questions about certain health issues or business strategies. And, It can then be canvassing all the new information that comes out in the world every minute and then bring things to your attention without you asking about them
Kurzweil was quick to dispel the myth he was given “unlimited” funds, but humbly suggests that Google is giving him “sufficient resources for a very important project.”
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Editor’s note: Maria Rocio Paniagua currently works as a project manager at Innku, one of the top mobile and web workshops in Mexico. She is very passionate about all things technology, entrepreneurship and innovation. Follow her on Twitter.
A few weeks ago, Vivek Wadhwa visited Mexico and wrote about the possible opportunities he saw for the Mexican IT sector, noting manufacturing plans. In his article, he suggested that the Mexican technology industry “leapfrog India” by moving away from IT services and into a different emerging market, grabbing the opportunity of re-automating the American manufacturing industry on markets like artificial intelligence, 3D printing and robotics.
Mexico is graduating roughly 13,000 engineers every year, so the amount of skilled professional talent needed to achieve these tech goals is available. Vivek pointed to a lack of confidence as a hindrance to success in Mexican tech. In another article, he closes with the words “there is no reason a Steve Jobs can’t be born in Mexico.” However, there are at least another two major challenges: the flight of talent (mainly to the U.S.) and the amount of resources being wasted on building entrepreneurial sand castles.
From what he expressed in his articles, he was exposed to the best of what’s happening in the country. He was at Instituto Politécnico Nacional, one of the most prestigious public universities that currently runs some of the largest research and incubator programs on cutting edge technology. It is only comparable to those at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, both of which are taking on fields like genomics, biotechnology, and advanced engineering. However, what happens inside these two institutions is not replicated in other universities or research facilities.
On the private university front, Tecnológico de Monterrey has been developing a very successful entrepreneurial program and culture that other higher educational institutions have embraced and replicated. However, the gap between innovation and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) seems to have widened with the startup boom in recent years.
True, Mexico has embraced the “American startup dream”; but with its virtues, its vices came, too. Many funded startups nowadays are focused on solving first-world problems that are only mildly relevant in the long run, such as online apartment rentals, clothing lines, and an assortment of service and product distributions. What would happen if the amount of resources and talent invested were focused instead on solving the most pressing issues faced by the country and humanity, such as artificial intelligence, security, nanotechnology, and biomedics?
Also, the same thing that happened to the venture capital ecosystem in the U.S. has been replicated in Mexico. Existing funds are composed of managing partners with little to no practical experience or academic or technical credentials who walk around town selling larger-than-life versions of themselves and the teams of trigger-happy entrepreneurs they’ve funded. Processes in Mexico tend to be slower than in the U.S., so even though money over there is moving away from consumer-based services, that turn hasn’t fully been taken south of the border.
Networking events in Mexico are more of a plague than a service — sometimes there are up to two a day between Thursday and Sunday. And there is a very naive perception of what it means to be an entrepreneur. The market for events and entrepreneurial ideas is so saturated that teams fresh from a three-day hackathon may get asked to go give a “conference” on how being an “entrepreneur” has changed his or her life. “Venture capital” funds that take large chunks of equity and give back tiny amounts of money are now numerous, and more and more recent graduates or dropouts seem to think of this kind of entrepreneurship as a worthy career path, instead of acquiring experience in established companies, solving complex problems or continuing their education.
This is not to say that all efforts are in vain. There are some really talented individuals working hard on startups that are attempting to solve very intricate problems. They are fighting the hard battles, working to solve issues in the health, mobility, loans, security, and political sectors (to name a few) with teams of seasoned entrepreneurs, academics and experts pushing them forward from the capital front. On these terms there’s an amazing example of a rural community in one of the poorest states in the country emerging as a robotics hub and aspiring to work for NASA. So there is a very positive side to all this that cannot be overlooked.
However, following the path laid down by Vivek Wadhwa, or even drawing a more ambitious one, will be quite hard. Although the talent graduating in Mexico may be on par with that in the U.S., Europe and India, the graduates often fail to continue on a path that will result in something worthwhile. From this talent, only a small part is building complex and complicated products or gaining experience in long-standing companies and organizations. But again, what is alarming is that frivolous ideas with no long-term relevance are all the rage. This, in conjunction with the flight of talent beyond Mexico’s borders or its being engulfed in the static of fast-paced dreams and failures, will prevent Mexico from realizing its full tech potential.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Editor’s note: Jonathan Wai is a researcher and writer at the Duke University Talent Identification Program and author of Finding the Next Einstein: Why smart is relative for Psychology Today. Follow him on Twitter.
Vivek Wadhwa argues in his recent book — The Immigrant Exodus — that “the future of America depends on skilled immigrants.” The book begins with his compelling personal journey as a talented immigrant from India and how he jumped at the opportunity to come to America when he was a young man.
Wadhwa is an immigrant who has reached the pinnacle of success in America. He is a regular columnist for The Washington Post and Bloomberg Businessweek, holds academic appointments at Duke, Stanford, Emory, and Singularity Universities, and founded two software companies before joining academia.
In other words, he is a shining example of the thesis of his latest book.
Yet his personal story is not the only evidence he presents. Based on his body of research on talented immigrant entrepreneurs and business leaders, Wadwha makes a compelling case that the future of America may indeed depend, at least in part, on talented immigrants:
“Today many pundits and observers question whether we are witnessing the beginning of the decline of the American empire. And I submit to you that this may indeed be the case. In alienating and locking out skilled immigrant entrepreneurs and inventors, we have not only blocked the flow of the very lifeblood that built the economic backbone of this great country, we have also deadened the nerve endings that create the next great thing. If we restore this flow, we restore our nation.”
Perhaps Wadwha is right. But I think that by solely focusing on talented immigrants we are forgetting about a group of people who are arguably just as, if not more important, for America’s future: talented Americans. Are we doing our best to educate them? The answer, it turns out, is that we are not really doing all that much.
According to the website of the National Association for Gifted Children, the federal government allocates .02 percent of the education budget towards programs for talented Americans. Wadhwa is right to focus on talented immigrants because they make a large impact on our country’s GDP. But what about talented Americans?
Researchers Heiner Rindermann and James Thompson have demonstrated that the top 5 percent of intellectual talent of a country disproportionately impacts the GDP of that country. In other words, the most intellectually talented Americans, which include both those born in America and those who are immigrants, are incredibly important for the future of America.
Yet these talented immigrants who end up in America have developed their talent in education systems that are not American. In other words, the people Wadhwa argues are important are already among the most select individuals from their respective countries.
As I have argued in my article Of Brainiacs And Billionaires regarding the importance of investing in America’s most talented minds:
“In competitive sports there are bench warmers, average players, and stars. In education there are below average, average, and star students. If a coach decided to focus solely on developing the talent of the bench and average players, it is doubtful that fans would approve — it would reduce the competitiveness of the team. Yet we commit the educational equivalent in America — we focus on educating our below average and average students and tend to ignore our top students. If this doesn’t work in the competitive world of sports, why does it make sense in our cutthroat global economy?”
Wadwha has written a compelling book that argues forcefully for opening doors for skilled and talented immigrants. But before we focus on helping the best and brightest from other countries, shouldn’t we be focused on helping the best and brightest of our own country and opening as many doors as we can for them?
I think it is time that we did.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
It’s not just start-ups that radically innovate. Take, for example, Autodesk, the 3D design, engineering and entertainment software giant that, according to its President and CEO Carl Bass, continues to be “incredibly relevant” in the innovation economy. “The most creative people use our tools,” Bass told me about popular Autodesk software like Sketchbook, Pixlr and Instructables, when I talked to him at The Economist‘s Innovation event in Berkeley last week. And Bass’ optimism extends to the future where, he told me, all of Autodesk’s products will have migrated online and the cloud, mobile and social will have radically transformed its business. Indeed, in 5 years time, he predicts, computing will become an “abundant resource” thereby providing Autodesk with even richer opportunities to create innovative design, engineering and entertainment software.
This conversation is part of a series that I recorded last week in Berkeley at the Innovation event. Check out my interviews with Stewart Brand, Clay Christensen and Vivek Wadhwa. Tomorrow, I’ll publish interviews about innovation with Don Tapscott and Laura Tyson, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under the Clinton Administration.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Gina Bianchini is best known, of course, as the co-founder and former CEO of Ning, the social community aggregator which Glam Media bought for $150 million last year. And now (ding dong), Bianchini is back with a new start-up, a social software company called Mightybell, which she says is trying to reinvent groups online. “It’s Github for groups,” she told me when I saw her last week at The Economist’s Innovation event in Berkeley. It may be “super early days,” for Mightybell, Bianchini explained, but she is nonetheless hopeful that the start-up, which has a “vast” team of six people, has raised $3.6 million and is still in private beta, will unlock the potential of real life experiences.
My conversation with Bianchini is one of a series of interviews about innovation that I recorded last week at The Economist‘s event. Check out previous interviews with the always controversial Vivek Wadhwa about racism and sexism in Silicon Valley and with Clay Christensen about trying to escape the innovator’s dilemma.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch