We're getting to the point where we have to make our decisions on graduate student admissions. In the theory group at Harvard we got a sizable number of folders that we've cut down to about 25. We'll probably cutting those down to about 10 acceptances.
There's clearly an abundance of good people, who could become solid TCS researchers. And as we went over in my last post on this, it's difficult to choose based on an application who will become successful.
My guilt in having to choose from among these many talented people is assuaged mostly by my concern for the people who we do admit to graduate school, especially in TCS. Where will the jobs be when these people graduate? I've heard the arguments that CS is still expanding, well maybe not in America but elsewhere in the world, and that PhDs can find other work besides being a professor. I've seen that most of the other students I knew as a graduate student in Berkeley have ended up with good positions -- mostly professors -- albeit some after a number of years of postdocs. But still, at the end of the day, when I do the math, it just doesn't add up. I expect to be in my position for at least 30 years (barring the current curse of Harvard CS faculty to be moved into administration); how many professors (or scientists at research labs) can I produce over my lifetime?
The financial meltdown has only raised my concerns that in CS generally (and theory in particular) we've been living through a bubble, and we'll all be shocked when that bubble pops, though we shouldn't be.
I'm not so entirely pessimistic -- CS PhDs, for as far as I can see, should have no trouble getting pretty good jobs. But how many will get the jobs they think they're getting the PhD for? (Note the internal mental bias here -- professors remember mostly the students who did go on to get faculty/research jobs...) We'll see.