Yann LeCun, a French computer scientist, was given a director job at Google, a new technology startup, in 2002. He declined the post for a variety of reasons, but he believes that if he had accepted it, it would have dramatically transformed the way Google conducts research.
LeCun revealed on X (previously Twitter) that Google co-founder Larry Page approached him with a job offer in 2002.
In a separate statement, he stated four reasons for declining the position. First and foremost, Google was a relative unknown in 2002. “This was January 2002, before ads, Gmail, and so on,” LeCun wrote.
Second, he complained about the poor pay. “Obviously, the stock option package would have ended up stratospheric.” However, the scientist notes that he had two teenage sons and that the job would have required him to relocate to the more expensive Silicon Valley housing market.
According to the post, his third reason for declining was that he didn’t want to move to Mountain View:
“My family was opposed to moving to California. You can’t uproot teens without making them hate you.”
Finally, LeCun stated that Google was not conducting the type of study he desired at the time.
Google, the never-was
While other artificial intelligence (AI) researchers would be blaming themselves for missing out on getting in on the ground floor of Google’s success, especially as the AI market explodes, LeCun eventually found a lucrative post at Meta, where he’s been since 2013. He didn’t say what kind of stock options he received.
Google appears to have fared well in the absence of LeCun. However, as LeCun relates the story, if he had accepted the role, things would have turned out very differently for the search giant.
“I believe the research culture at Google would have been different if I had joined.” I should have made it a little more open and ambitious earlier.”