A student presents mobile machine learning research conducted by people in Korea and China at this year\u2019s International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications and Services held in Portland, Oregon.
Photo: Kate Kaye/Protocol

The AI talent gap

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: how the U.S. is trying to attract Chinese AI talent while also denouncing Chinese AI talent, the cybersecurity community says goodbye to one of its own, and this week in enterprise moves.

The quixotic US quest for Chinese AI talent

To ensure U.S. economic and tech research dominance over China, Big Tech and AI investors have linked arms with national security hawks, hoping to woo more of China’s top computer scientists to the U.S. But people entrenched in AI research warn that turning a mission to attract Chinese STEM scholars into a battle for talent against China could backfire by alienating those researchers.

It is a race for talent against China the U.S. must win, said U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

  • “China is doubling down on its STEM talent production and its STEM talent attraction, but attracting and retaining the world’s best STEM talent is an advantage that is the United States’ to lose, and we are determined not to lose it,” said Sullivan in a keynote speech at an event in September.
  • Sullivan’s speech reflected a goal of many in U.S. academia and corporate tech who want to ensure more computer scientists and AI engineers come to study and work in the U.S. and stay.
  • “Being at a U.S. university, I do worry about our losing that lead; especially being in the field of AI in particular, I worry about that a lot,” said Usama Fayyad, executive director at the Institute for Experiential AI at Northeastern University.
  • Eric Schmidt, an influential AI tech investor who has cultivated a network of powerful Washington insiders (and hosted the event where Sullivan spoke that day), also has been a vocal advocate for bringing more people working in STEM to the U.S. “to sustain the United States’ technology leadership in the face of China’s formidable economic and military challenge.”

There are numbers that prove Chinese scientists in the U.S. are feeling alienated by the Trump administration’s China initiative, now perpetuated by anti-China national security voices.

  • A survey by the Asian American Scholar Forum of roughly 1,300 Chinese American scientific researchers in the U.S. who are involved in computer science and engineering, math, and other sciences found that 72% did not feel safe as an academic researcher.
  • 61% had thought about leaving the U.S., and 65% were worried about collaborations with China.
  • 45% of the AASF study participants who have used federal grant money to conduct research in the past are reluctant to apply again.

AI researchers in the U.S. and China have worked together for decades — but that’s changing.

  • When researchers at Meta AI and Reality Labs Research published a robotics and computer vision research paper in July, they cited a paper that came out of China’s Alibaba Group and Tongji University’s School of Automotive Studies in Shanghai.
  • Rather than being presented by the researchers in person, at this year’s Association for Computing Machinery MobiSys conference held in Portland, Oregon, work involving on-device machine learning by researchers from Peking University, the Institute for AI Industry Research at Tsinghua University, and China’s State Key Laboratory of Networking and Switching Technology was presented by proxies.
  • “I can only imagine how much work they put into these papers, but they weren’t able to travel here,” said Robert LiKamWa, an associate professor at both the school of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering and School of Arts, Media, and Engineering at Arizona State University, told me at the June event in Portland, Oregon.

I spoke to Chinese computer scientists in the U.S. and mainland China for this story who worry they will no longer be able to work together.

  • One U.S.-based AI professor born in China told me his Chinese internship program may never be the same. “I don’t think they’ll be coming back,” he said. “We want to identify good students for Ph.D.s; that’s the only motivation for us. So if [the university authorities] don’t encourage — or they discourage — we’ll just say, ‘Fine,’ we just [won’t do that],” he said.
  • Another AI professor in Beijing lamented the potential for more blockades on working with people in the U.S. “I think it’s just a pity because you have very brilliant people [on both sides],” he said. “It greatly accelerates the research.”

This story is part of a multipart series analyzing the so-called “AI race” between the U.S. and China. Check out all the series articles, interactive graphics, and audio interviews here.

— Kate Kaye (email| twitter)

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A cybersecurity legend remembered

Numerous members of the cybersecurity community are paying tribute following the tragic death of Vitali Kremez, a well-known cybersecurity threat researcher and CEO of the influential threat intelligence provider AdvIntel. Kremez, who was 36, died while scuba diving off the southeast Florida coast.

Dmitry Smilyanets of Recorded Future called Kremez a "legend" of the field, while Huntress researcher John Hammond tweeted that "our community and our whole world has lost another great titan." Prior to AdvIntel, Kremez headed SentinelOne's SentinelLabs research group. A native of Belarus, Kremez was highly regarded for providing critical cyberthreat research, including on the Russia-aligned ransomware group Conti and the TrickBot malware.

Kremez is also being remembered as a person keenly interested in helping others along in their careers. Ohad Zaidenberg, head of intelligence at AB InBev, recalled having the chance to meet with Kremez three years ago in Tel Aviv. The meeting ended up lasting hours, and it "affected me so much," Zaidenberg tweeted. "It pushed me to do more in the threat intelligence world."

— Kyle Alspach (email | twitter)

Enterprise moves

Over the past week Dynatrace and Cloudflare switched up their C-suites, Arm added a new board member, a longtime Microsoft exec left, and more.

Jim Benson was named CFO of Dynatrace. Benson was formerly vice president and CFO at Akamai Technologies and held finance leadership roles at HP.

Marc Boroditsky is the new president of revenue at Cloudflare, replacing former chief revenue officer Chris Merritt. Boroditsky was formerly chief revenue officer at Twilio.

Tony Fadell joined the board of directors at Arm. Fadell is the founder and former CEO of Nest and was formerly SVP of Apple’s iPod division.

Robert Calderoni was appointed chair of the board at KLA corporation. Calderoni was formerly interim CEO at Citrix Systems, CEO at Ariba, and president of SAP AG’s cloud business.

Patrick Gardner joined Flashpoint as chief product officer. Gardner was formerly a senior vice president at Symantec.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

Cloudflare said it has now surpassed $1 billion on its annualized revenue run rate, as it disclosed Q3 financial results that beat Wall Street expectations on revenue and earnings while acknowledging that the economic slowdown is "starting to show up on our top-line revenue numbers," according to CEO Matthew Prince.

Twilio beat Wall Street expectations for revenue and profit but its stock was hammered in after-hours trading for providing a weaker outlook than hoped, as investors are clearly getting freaked out by this quarter’s round of earnings results.

Atlassian also provided a revenue outlook well below financial analyst expectations for the fourth quarter, and was treated much the same way.

Boeing confirmed that a subsidiary, Jeppesen, was working to recoverfrom an unspecified "cyber incident" that disrupted the use of the company's flight planning tools.

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