October 6, 2005 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the EXTRA issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on October 6, 2005.
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For an inside look at Google, and the new generation of Silicon Valley wunderkind, see the wonderfully-interesting and illuminating talk Sergey Brin just gave:
-- to Professor Marti Hearst's class in "Search Engines: Technology, Society, and Business", at UC Berkeley, their SIMS / School of Information Management and Systems,
The "casual brilliance" which goes into the perhaps uniquely - American system of SiliconValley-style hitech should impress many who watch this webcast. Notice the speaker's resemblance to the students: in dress, manner, age -- Brin is just over 30, as are many of the students -- and particularly the open and fresh and somewhat anti-hierarchical nature of the presentation. For instance the professor has the chance to deliver a stuffy introduction and read an impressive c.v. and she doesn't: just passes on it, with a shrug, and says simply, "Here's Sergey..."
Also the "collaborative research": this is a Stanford University graduate student -- Brin is on-leave but continuing work on his PhD, as he manages and builds his multi-billion dollar Google Inc. (current market capitalization nearly $90 billion) -- and here he is sharing knowledge with, and revealing secrets to, arch-rival University of California students, who he knows may go out into the field to become direct competitors of his own firm, although many of them may go to work for him at Google...
Moreover, as a representative of the "commercial" world, Brin is an interloper in the ivory tower -- an invader of academia -- more incredibly, to some perhaps, he has been invited to be so. There was a time, in US academia, when this was not possible, but that time is long past. What is shown in this webcast has become the norm, in the US anyway: the "commercial" and "academic" worlds have merged -- they think alike, talk alike, look alike -- both inhabit "campuses", and dress as Brin does here, and play volleyball at breaktimes, and drink fruit juice -- and they work terribly, terribly, hard, for many long hours, at what they do.
It's a model which is not unique to US hitech. Right now, watching Brin on this video, I've just come from the Genentech Building at the new University of California at San Francisco Mission Bay campus, where stem cell and other new "biotech" industries are being blended with their commercial counterparts, too. So both Google's "digital hitech" and Genentech's "biotech" -- the commercial and the academic -- work the same way, now, here in the US. A new convergence: commercial<=>academic.
There are disadvantages to this... But a disquisition on all of that would run on for many pages, and here I really wanted only to give everyone a fascinating glimpse of what is going on, by reporting on Brin's video and encouraging everyone to view it.
If your personal higher education has taken place entirely since the year 2000, none of this will look surprizing. But for anyone whose schooling took place much before then, and certainly for any from long before that, be prepared: this is a Brave New World.
ps. Anyone wishing to explore the theoretical underpinnings of this approach is encouraged to read locus classicus on the SiliconValley-style approach to things: the author, Saxenian, now is Dean at UC Berkeley SIMS --
Saxenian, AnnaLee. Regional advantage : culture and
competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128 (Cambridge, Mass. :
Harvard University Press, 1994) ISBN 0674753399.
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