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Take a Breath Because This is Scary

In California this week, a former Google engineer has been indicted on charges of selling trade secrets to two Chinese companies he was also work for. His name is Linwei Ding (Leon)

A little over a year ago, the White House released an interagency task force called the Disruptive Technology Strike Force. The purpose of this group was to help stop advanced tech from being acquired by other governments, like China and Russia.

The reason this is scary is what was stolen. Arguably, Google’s internal AI is the most advanced in the world. We’ve talked at length about the complexities of Google even making this tech available to us in the public, which is a real business conundrum. What Ding stole was detailed information about the hardware infrastructure and the software platform for Google’s supercomputing data centers where they train large AI models. The stolen information consists of over 500 files he uploaded to an early- stage Chinese tech company.

As Americans, sometimes it’s hard for us to fully understand how business works in communist countries. All of the companies are owned by the government. All of them. Which means, Ding essentially gave a tremendous amount of extremely valuable information directly to the Chinese Government. In the indictment, Ding was quoted saying online, “We have experience with Google’s ten- thousand-card computational power platform; we just need to replicate and upgrade it.”

This engineer is facing up to 10 years in prison and 250K on each charge. I wonder if that would be for each document. If so, the fine could be more than $125M. I think the real question isn’t whether he should be convicted of selling trade secrets or treason. It feels a whole lot more like treason, which comes with a punishment of, up to and including, the death penalty. Capital punishment is a whole different discussion (and one Jason has changed my mind on!), but I feel strongly this should be considered treason. What do you think?

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Tricia Tamkin, headhunter, advisor, coach, and gladiator. Tricia has spoken at over 50 recruiting events, been quoted in multiple national publications, and her name is often dropped in groups as the solution to any recruiters’ challenges. She brings over 30 years of deep recruiting experience and offers counsel in a way which is perspective changing and entertaining.

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