Jeffrey Ullman on the National Benefit

Once a year, NICTA’s external advisory boards, called ISAG/IBAG (International {Scientific, Business} Advisory Group), hold a meeting. There are some well known people on this panel, including Jeffrey D. Ullman, who is one of, if not the, most cited computer scientists. At the most recent ISAG/IBAG, the NICTA executive sought some advice on the potential for conflict between the objectives of national benefit and commercialisation. Ullman’s answer was succinct, cutting and delivered with a dry wit that I have come to appreciate over the years since I’ve been at NICTA:

National benefit versus private benefit… Hey, that’s what capitalism is designed to do, is to guarantee that there is no contradiction.

The line got a delayed laugh, because it took the audience a few moments to realise that was all Professor Ullman had to say on the topic, and that he’d moved on to the next topic. People laughed, but he was serious, and more right than many would be willing to accept.