Although it’s impossible to determine exactly how many A.I. researchers are currently in the market, Chinese tech firm Tencent tried to estimate the number in a new report (PDF). The company’s conclusion: market demand for A.I. pros has greatly outstripped supply. (Hat tip to The Verge for the original link.)
Tencent estimates there are 300,000 A.I. professionals worldwide, but that companies want millions more. The United States, China, Japan, and a handful of other countries are in an aggressive race to train more talent, with more schools teaching machine learning and other A.I. aspects.
Whether or not those Tencent numbers are accurate, it’s clear that demand for A.I. talent is forcing related salaries and bonuses to stratospheric heights. Earlier this year, Tom Eck, CTO of industry platforms at IBM, told an audience at the Markets Media’s Trading event in New York that top-tier A.I. researchers “are getting paid the salaries of NFL quarterbacks, which tells you the demand and the perceived value.”
Eck added that financial services, healthcare and the advertising industry are the three main adopters of A.I.-based platforms at this point. However, the technology industry is no slouch in its pursuit of the right talent: according to Forbes, tech’s biggest companies are pouring incredible resources into locking down the necessary brains. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are recruiting for hundreds of A.I.-related positions.
“Machine learning drives our algorithms for demand forecasting, product search ranking, product and deals recommendations, merchandising placements, fraud detection, translations, and much more,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote recently. “Though less visible, much of the impact of machine learning will be of this type—quietly but meaningfully improving core operations.”
He added: “Inside AWS [Amazon Web Services], we’re excited to lower the costs and barriers to machine learning and A.I. so organizations of all sizes can take advantage of these advanced techniques.”
While tech’s biggest firms are trying to vacuum up all the talent, the fact remains that companies of all sizes are going to need to leverage A.I. in coming years if they want to retain some sort of competitive advantage. Fortunately, Dice data has shown that tech pros don’t just care about money; they also want perks, benefits, and a positive working environment. A company that can provide those things, even if it doesn’t have the billions of a Google or Amazon, has a shot at snatching up the talent it needs.
For those tech pros looking to boost their standing within their company, there may be no better time to pick up some A.I.-related skills. Consider taking a few courses from a bootcamp or online-learning institution such as Udacity—your company may even pay for it.