Jeff Dean - Chuck Norris for us nerds - fact as a bonus: "The rate at which Jeff Dean produces code jumped by a factor of 40 in late 2000 when he upgraded his keyboard to USB2.0."
Consider the problem of protein folding, which has taken up many a processor cycle over the past decade or so. And that's just a tiny sliver of life sciences.
Disclaimer: I will be there freaking out because I work at Google on Cloud and Jeff Dean is rad.
And this is exactly why Google's hype of their tech is getting dangerous for everyone else, who is not Google. Because they advocate, nay, they preach, that everyone should abandon what they're doing and do what Google tells them works. And, oh, look, we just released those nice, free tools you can use to do it like we do!
Which is insane. Google is a corporate entity. It has financial interests. The purpose of its existence is to sell you its stuff, it doesn't give a dime if you'll solve your problems or not.
This piece of advice is like Bayer, back in the day, selling its Aspirin as the cure of all ills: "If you're not considering how to take Aspirin to solve your health problems, you almost certainly should be".
When I was an academic scientist in the mid 2000s, I ended up with more data than I could deal with, and none of the computing systems in academia at the time dealt well with that (they were tuned for HPC/supercomputers). The bigtable, mapreduce, and GFS papers were huge to me, because they provided a nicer framework for data processing. Although Google made those tools for Search and Ads (and profited greatly from them) they also published them, and Doug Cutting and others incorporated them into Hadoop. A similar thing is happening now, but Google got better at releasing their codes as open source, which reduces the time between publication of a good idea, and replication of that work by others outside the corp.
(eventually, I went to google to get direct access to its infrastructure; built Exacycle, gave away an enormous amount of free computing time that cost Google rather than profiting it, the leadership loved it even though it cost money, and I even managed to get Googler to apply machine learning to academic problems I cared about).
So I don't think Google solely acts in its own short term financial interests.
Also, aspirin has turned out to be amazing at solving a wide range of health problems, so I think bayer was probably right (if not for the right reasons) on that one.
I think what your experience shows is that on the one hand individuals within
Google (or any big corp) can and do align their own personal interest with that
of the corp and on the other hand that the corp can benefit the community as
long as it is making profit and serving its own purposes. Nothing surprising
As to releasing its tools, here's my Thought for the Day: There's no such thing
as a free lunch and the only people who pretend there is are the ones who want
to steal your lunch money. Google releases its tools when it is in the interest
of Google to do so, not when it's in the interest of anyone else. Yes, they're
doing better now than in the past in open-sourcing stuff and I can't know what's
on their mind. But I can tell that it doesn't hurt them to get people adopting
their tech even as Google itself develops it further and further to something
that can only be used by a corp with Google's resources. In short, I'm pretty
sure that their friendly offer of, frex, TensorFlow is just some trick to get
people roped in to their technology, in the same way that other corps have tried
to do before- except that they also made you pay for the privilege.
That doesn't make any sense to me.
Another big point I think you missed is those individuals within Google influence the decisions about what gets open sourced. We have an entire team that facilitates taking Google-written code and opensourcing it.
Let me rephrase that then: I can't possibly hope to know why Google is giving away free stuff. I can certainly know that they don't do it out of the kindness of their hearts though.
That said, I am indeed very concerned that Google is trying to shape, not only the market, but the science also, to suit its own interests. That could be really bad for everyone, including Google; if research stagnates, they too will find themselves unable to deliver on their big promises about ever speeding progress.
Uh, yes? It's a market entity handing out free stuff.
I know, you're saying they do it out of the joy of handing out free stuff. But, well, that is what really makes no sense.
Engineers want to talk about their ingenious solutions. Google wants to keep them happy (as long as it doesn't cost too much), because otherwise they will just leave and join Facebook. No need to imagine a conflict of interest where none are.
(Yes, yes, I know they are not legally engineers according to some laws in some part of the world.)
"...it seems like an excellent time to gloss Jeff’s talk..."
"gloss" a talk? WTF?