China Hiring Restrictions Won’t Solve Anything: Eric Schmidt

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt doesn’t think that restrictions on hiring from China will do the U.S. technology industry any good, according to reports from an event at Stanford University.

“I think the China problem is solvable with the following insight: we need access to their top scientists,” he told the audience, according to Bloomberg. He also added that “common frameworks” such as Google’s TensorFlow benefit from input from scientists and researchers in other countries.

However, he also criticized China for the “terrible impact” of its surveillance technology, adding: “I think it’s important that we establish right here, right now that the liberal values of Stanford University, Western values, are the ones that should win.”

Schmidt’s comments come at an auspicious time, considering how the Trump administration is in the middle of a wide-ranging trade war with China. In addition, the U.S. government continues to push forward with its “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, which seeks to curb many types of immigration. 

Since President Trump signed that executive order two years ago, the government has suspended premium processing of H-1B petitions (before resuming it), signaled an intention to kill H-4 EAD, and planned to completely change how the H-1B lottery is run. As a result, H-1B denials have spiked at many tech firms, as well as contractor and business-services companies.

For Google, any such restrictions are problematic. After all, the company has a major A.I. facility in China, and, as Schmidt alluded to, depends on international researchers to help drive many of its more cutting-edge initiatives. Other large firms, including Microsoft and Apple, depend on a similar pipeline of talent from around the world. (“A.I. and its benefits have no borders,” Google Cloud chief scientist Fei-Fei Li announced when the company launched that China A.I. lab.)

That pressure for A.I. and machine-learning researchers, of course, creates an opening for technologists who are interested in a career in that field. For those brand new to the idea of artificial intelligence, check out the wide variety of online learning resources available for A.I. and machine learning. However, it could take years to develop the skills necessary to work in a dedicated A.I. lab.