Wow, a bunch of cynics here, huh? I guess I just don't see what's wrong with wanting to make make money for your empoyees and stakeholders, or to advance your career if it's going to put you in a better position to contribute to the corpus of human knowledge.
This evolution of the field is unavoidable. Academics are simply not well suited to attract capital. The best research will happen behind closed company doors, because they can pay the best and they can make the research pay off for them (universities can do neither).
True, but I would disagree with one thing, here. I think that the pay gap between public and private sector research has been much exaggerated. A full professor at an R1 institution can easily make over $100,00 dollars a year, and as much as 15-20% more if they carry a full load through the summer. Add to that fairly generous matching to 401(k) contributions, and you're making a pretty fair living. Granted, there aren't a huge number of spots at the top level, but if you're bright, and you work hard, it's definitely doable. I blame political rhetoric for propogating the myth that all the best and brightest are naturally in the private sector because the pay is so much better. It's true to some degree, but not nearly as much as it's been portrayed.
Academics are also free to pursue patents of their own, and often do. I know of a couple labs doing work with pharmacological adjuncts to behavioral treatment of PTSD. A couple drugs have patents pending. One for a drug that enhances 'extinction,' as it's called in the field, and another that disrupts memory reconsolidation.
A practical application of a field is not something negative. Does it slow the advancement of the theory of the field? Maybe. Or maybe the actual applications of what they are doing will attract new minds and new capital that never would have considered the field otherwise (example, the annual starcraft AI competitions). A good scientist knows that EVERYTHING ADDS TOGETHER in a field, and ANY science is driven by an interest (whether personal or profitable).
Again, I agree with most of this. But, the main difference is that one of the things that makes science in the public sector work is the openness of information (as kenata mentioned above). The end result of any research project is publication for all to see, replicate, and extend. Corporate science is understandably cloistered. And why wouldn't it be? Why would I want some other corporation benefitting from the research I've paid for?
Also, I agree that the degree to which private sector research benefits the field depends on the field. I think of genetics as having parallel goals, because the basic science leads to immediate applications. But in others, the goals run at closer to 90 degrees to one another. The problems that need to be solved by applied 'AI' research and basic AI research tend to be very different.