Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Google Co-founder Shows His Ignorance

According to Reuters, Google co-founder Larry Page made a fool of himself in front of a bunch of scientists [ Google co-founder: Science needs entrepreneurs]. Here's what Reuters says,
Scientists need more entrepreneurial drive and could benefit by doing more to promote solutions to big human problems, Google Inc. co-founder Larry Page told a meeting of academic researchers.
I hope readers of this blog will recognize that Page isn't talking about science. He's talking about technology. It's sad that he doesn't know the difference.

[Hat Tip: Shelley Batts]


  1. Careful, this is a google blog :) No, scientists are most definitely not engineers (not in my experience). And nor should they be.

  2. I think you're being too hard on him. He certainly did not "show his ignorance" or "make a fool of himself", unless you are willing to sling those kinds of labels around for peccadilloes.

    I remind you that both Mr. Page and Mr. Brin were working on doctorates at Stanford when they departed to found Google. Now, CS at Stanford is most definitely a science program, not an engineering program, because it's highly theoretical. Indeed, some people earn doctorates there without even writing code for the thesis.

    Therefore, it seems to me that Mr. Page is recommending precisely what he himself did: that scientists should take their ideas out into the world. And in fact just about every major university now has an office whose task it is to encourage scientists to do just that. A friend of mine (with a doctorate in astronomy) once ran such a program for Northwestern. Surely you wouldn't dismiss all such programs as foolish?

  3. Larry,

    Well said.

    Regardless of what Page or Brin used to do they are most certainly not doing science now. You are mixing up applied science and technology with science.

  4. Shiva, read carefully what is being said here. Mr. Page was a scientist, and then became an entrepreneur. He now recommends that other scientists should consider becoming entrepreneurs. What possible complaint can you make about his statement?

  5. I disagree with the focus on big human problems, but aren't a lot of scientists entrepreneurs of sorts... especially when one is running a lab

  6. He should have said that more entrepreneurs need to become more scientific.

  7. ChepeNoyon says,

    Mr. Page was a scientist, and then became an entrepreneur. He now recommends that other scientists should consider becoming entrepreneurs. What possible complaint can you make about his statement?

    How about it's a really, really stupid thing to say to a bunch of academic scientists? It makes about as much sense as telling them they should become physicians or lawyers.

  8. This is chepenoyon speaking; I can't log in properly (long story).

    Larry, you think it's really really stupid to suggest that academic scientists might consider becoming entrepreneurs. Well, perhaps you are happy with your job, but there are lots of people out there who were once academics who have gone on to explore other fields. I know a guy with a doctorate in astronomy who went on to become a Pentagon big shot helping decide how to spend Pentagon research money. I know another astronomy PhD (I mentioned him earlier) who helped found several high-tech startups and later ran a program for Northwestern University for moving technology out of the lab and into the marketplace. Perhaps you're not familiar with this trend, but most major American universities have special programs for exactly this purpose. They obtain patents for academic research, they assist researchers in finding capital, and they help find executives to run the companies. This is a major development, now amounting to billions of dollars. These spin-off companies are everywhere. Indeed, Silicon Valley is an entire high-tech community that lives and breathes the interplay between academia and industry. Perhaps you don't like Silicon Valley; perhaps you don't like high-tech. But please don't translate your personal tastes into condemnations of individuals who do not share your personal tastes.

  9. Tell you what, chepenoyon, why don't you come to one of our departmental meetings and tell all my colleagues to become entrepreneurs? See what kind of response you get.

    This may come as a big shock to you but we're not all in it for the money, you know.

  10. Of course there are 'different strokes for different folks'; and in fact many high-tech entrepreneurs are not in it for the money. They just like the idea of turning their ideas into something that changes the world. The key idea here is that science is important, and if science remains bottled up in academia, then it isn't as useful to society as a whole. We need to think in terms of a continuum between pure research and straight engineering, not some sort of hierarchy. Pure research is not better than engineering, nor is engineering better than pure research; they both fill critical roles in our society, and they are both equally necessary. We as a society need the people who blur the boundaries, make the continuum smoother, facilitate better transfer of ideas from one area of endeavor to another. Deriding those who encourage such cross-fertilization is narrow-minded and mean-spirited.