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Top AI Researchers Keep Leaving Facebook

Jumping Ship

Mark Zuckerberg's Meta-formerly-Facebook is bleeding its top AI leaders.

As Fortune reports, the company has lost at least three significant AI leaders in March alone: Devi Parikh, Meta's now-former senior director of generative AI; Abhishek Das, the now-former head of Meta's Fundamental AI Research (FAIR) team; and Erik Meijer, Meta's now-former director of engineering.

Each executive bid adieus to their metamates late last month, taking to X-formerly-Twitter to announce their surprising exits. And from the outside, it seems like there are no hard feelings; Parikh noted that she would "miss Meta," while Das wrote in his goodbye that Meta's FAIR team remains "really strong."

"I'm rooting for them!" Das added.

But none of these three departed metamates were nearly as forthcoming as Meijer, who stated in a very blunt X post that while he's "more bullish than ever about Meta with the company's increased focus on AI," he believes that continuing to work for such a big company might be limiting to someone who doesn't necessarily want to build their own large language model (LLM).

"Given the incredible competitive pressure in the field," wrote Meijer, "there is really no advantage to be inside a large corp if you want to build cool stuff on top of LLMs."

Considering that Meta CEO Zuck has reportedly been personally penning recruiting emails to AI staffers at its competitor Google, losing three top AI dogs in this short of a period isn't the best look. One too many pivots, perhaps?

https://twitter.com/headinthebox/status/1772735276504219827?s=20

Comes in Waves

On the one hand, given the amount of venture capital cash being poured into AI startups, it's not surprising to see some directors risk leaving large companies while the iron's extremely — and perhaps dangerously — hot.

"Technology is there, the market is bubbling, and VCs have opened the banks for risk takers," Rice University computer scientist Anshumali Shrivastava told Fortune. "Who will not do it?"

Other experts say that the exits reflect patterns in previous technological shakeups.

"Every time there's a new platform or layer of the technology stack, there is an opportunity for startups to build apps on top of it," Arvind Narayanan, a professor of computer science at Princeton, told Fortune. "We saw this with the PC, the web, mobile app stores, and now we're seeing it with generative AI."

In other words, according to Narayanan, this is an expected Silicon Valley cycle. And though Meijer told Fortune that the three execs' simultaneous departure was likely due to the company's yearly review cycle, the strikes are still a blow to Meta — especially as the Silicon Valley AI race only continues to heat up.

More on Zucko headhunting: Zuckerberg Emailing Google Employees, Asking Them to Work for Facebook Instead