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Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries For Scarce AI Talent (santafenewmexican.com) 156

jmcbain writes: Machine learning and artificial intelligence skills are in hot demand right now, and it's driving up the already-high salaries in Silicon Valley. "Tech's biggest companies are placing huge bets on artificial intelligence (Warning: may be paywalled; alternative source)," reports the New York Times, and "typical AI specialists, including both Ph.D.s fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock." The New York Times notes there are several catalysts for rocketing salaries that all come down to supply and demand. There is competition among the giant companies (e.g. Google, Facebook, and Uber) as well as the automative companies wanting help with self-driving cars. However, the biggest issue is the supply: "Most of all, there is a shortage of talent, and the big companies are trying to land as much of it as they can. Solving tough A.I. problems is not like building the flavor-of-the-month smartphone app. In the entire world, fewer than 10,000 people have the skills necessary to tackle serious artificial intelligence research, according to Element AI, an independent lab in Montreal."
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Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries For Scarce AI Talent

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    A sufficiently talented AI 'researcher' should be able to code a self-aware AI researching AI.
    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      Read Godel much? (Umlat the o)

    • A sufficiently talented AI 'researcher' should be able to code a self-aware AI researching AI.

      It's weird enough for AI specialists to deal with the fact that they're coding the demise of thousands of human jobs. Don't make it worse by enforcing the fact that they will likely eventually join their unemployable brethren...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We don't have strong AI yet. There aren't 10,000 people that know to get to strong AI, there are currently 0. For our current AI, anyone can develop it, and you just need marketing to announce it as the next big thing.

    • There aren't 10,000 people

      Back in the prehistoric days of /., I remember reading something from I think Linus about Linux saying something along the lines of...when Microsoft started, there were fewer than 1,000 people who knew what an operating system was and they had a limited talent pool to choose from. Now hundreds of thousands, millions, of people do

  • Since AI is the be all and end all, they should have their existing AI geniuses write some awesome AI logic that does the same thinking and work of other AI geniuses. Problem solved.
  • It's a good thing we have a president who is focused on science and education. Now we'll never lose to foreign countries!
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @09:24AM (#55423173) Journal

    In the entire world, fewer than 10,000 people have the skills necessary to tackle serious artificial intelligence research, according to Element AI, an independent lab in Montreal

    In the entire world, fewer than 1000 people have the skills necessary to do unstructured tetrahedral finite element mesh generation. It is possible there are fewer than 1000 people who have the skills necessary to understand what exactly we mesh makers do. And, Surprise! there is demand for fewer than 1000 people to write unstructured tetrahedral finite element mesh generation. And far fewer than 1000 people are needed to manage them.

    I am glad the periodical bubbles that infect Wall Street and venture capitalists benefits PhDs once in a while. Most of the time it benefits hedge fund monkeys or stock market cheats or lottery winners with delusions of grandeur or plain sociopaths. Happy for my grad school classmates. Enjoy the windfall while lasts, Ramachandran\s, Yang\s, Hsu\s, Gupta\s, Parpia\s and Wickramasinghe\s.

    • by epine ( 68316 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @10:40AM (#55423623)

      In the entire world, fewer than 1000 people have the skills necessary to do unstructured tetrahedral finite element mesh generation.

      Nice rhetoric—factual statement masquerading as metaphor, for any reader dumb enough to go along for the ride.

      The Evolution of the Flour Mill from Prehistoric Ages to Modern Times [angelfire.com] — 1905

      Before the first actual grinding mill came into existence, grain was merely shelled or husked by pounding. This simple kind of a "first break" was effected by spreading the grain upon a slab or block of stone and beating it with a hand stone; a subsequent development of this rude apparatus being a hollow mortar and an improved hand stone. The original hand pounder was used on a flat block... Such relics are found throughout both hemispheres, having been used by all primitive nations throughout the world; but eventually they were universally discarded for more perfect apparatus, which really ground the grain into meal.

      That's about the present state of machine learning, the hand-crafting of "features" playing the role of the recently discarded flat blocks.

      Wheat is an incredible dietary resource, with the starch being light enough to transport over long distances, if only one can find a way to remove it (contrast potatoes, only ever transported downhill, if at all, until the invention of steam power). Once upon a time, all food was local, as, too, was starvation (fear the blight).

      A better method to mill the world's vast stores of accumulated data is a big deal, even if we remain in the relatively crude era of water-powered stone grinding wheels.

      Data is a bit like wheat, it doesn't give up its curvature easily. Too much applied force creates heat and destroys the end product. The applied force must have exactly the right ratio of compressive to shear stress, which only an expert miller can judge. Deep learning is nothing more than a slightly better mill than the one we had before, and it ranks right up there beside becoming slightly better at milling wheat.

      The economic value of the curvature we can now hope to unlock is quite large. And probably there's a lot of curvature yet to find that remains inaccessible to current methodology.

      Data is oil. Data is also wheat.

      By way of contrast, unstructured tetrahedral finite element mesh generation shaves 5% of the metal mass off a milling apparatus that already worked just fine, being just one of ten thousand noisy specializations in the great roil of small improvements where a penny shaved is a penny earned.

      In the entire world, fewer than 1000 people have the skills necessary to do unstructured tetrahedral finite element mesh generation.

      Nevertheless, apparently a great career option for the metaphorically challenged.

      • by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @11:23AM (#55423875)

        Data is a bit like wheat, it doesn't give up its curvature easily. Too much applied force creates heat and destroys the end product. The applied force must have exactly the right ratio of compressive to shear stress, which only an expert miller can judge.

        Deep, dude... deep. Have you considered writing Slashdot summaries?

      • Wheat is an incredible dietary resource

        If by that you mean wheat has been found to be a highly potent anti-nutrient linked with a range of digestive and neurological disorders, you'd be right.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I know a guy who cut and pastes Javascript snippets to make interactive query windows for websites. His main job is as a creative director at a mid-tier advertising agency. He calls his work 'AI research'. I am not kidding - he makes over $100k per year.

      The biggest problem I have found with smart people, is they don't think stupid people should be paid lots of money for work they think is simple. The more successful ones have figured out that it is much better to cash in on such situations rather than lamen

      • 100K is what I pay for my rookie mesh maker, a second assistant deputy sub trainee mesh engineer. In the Rust Belt, USA no less. Five bedroom mansions on two acre lots goes for 150K around here. With six, count them six, golf courses within 15 minutes. Life is good for the Mesh Engineer who made it.
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @09:24AM (#55423177)

    Greetings Professor Falken!

  • Hello [UserName], my name is doctor Sbaitso.

    I am here to help you.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When companies start paying like that, that's indicative of shortage.

    Remember this folks the next time some company claims they can't get enough qualified people.

  • I just got my PhD (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I just finished my PhD in neural networks and AI, and I can say that this article comes up a bit short. I actually got offered $625K (granted it's San Jose, so it's more like $150K anywhere else in the country)... I turned it down because San Jose sucks, so I took a job at a company on the east coast instead for $195K.

    AI-related jobs are certainly at a premium right now as companies scramble to get rid of humans and replace them with robots.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I just got mine in gender studies and I have been writing papers on how AI is the projection of masculine hegemony, domination, and misogyny into the computing sphere. And how it will add to global warming and increase the relevance of the penis social construct in masculine psychology and subjugating other genders including trans and cis genders.

      It's a great job. I write gibberish, teach classes to sanctimonious well-to-do white kids, and get paid almost 6 figures - for working about 4 hours a week.

  • Pure BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi&evcircuits,com> on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @09:51AM (#55423327) Homepage

    Modern AI software isn't that complicated and not nearly as expensive to get people in. Look at job offers: $150k for AI research scientists in NYC. $65k in more rural areas. That's not well paid by definition at all. Sure, a pure AI scientist gets paid $500k just like a top neuroscience scientist gets paid $500k or a top biology researcher, but the majority of companies do not want to do the theoretical development of AI, any regular programmer can wrap their heads around the existing literature and build something.

    Here in my area, there are a number of employers looking for AI engineers/scientists. They pay about what I make as a non-AI IT sysadmin, which is given my experience on the higher scale but by no means exceptional.

    What Google and co wants is a glut of people 4-6 years from now that are "trained" in AI from college. You put out a report like this, you get massive amounts of people applying for the schools that offer programs and 5 years from now you have an over-abundance of people driving down overall wages. You also get to hire a bunch of people on H1B because the "US doesn't have the skillz" and you end up with a bunch of programmers on H1B under the guise of AI development.

    • Modern AI software isn't that complicated and not nearly as expensive to get people in. Look at job offers: $150k for AI research scientists in NYC. $65k in more rural areas. That's not well paid by definition at all. Sure, a pure AI scientist gets paid $500k just like a top neuroscience scientist gets paid $500k or a top biology researcher, but the majority of companies do not want to do the theoretical development of AI, any regular programmer can wrap their heads around the existing literature and build something.

      Here in my area, there are a number of employers looking for AI engineers/scientists. They pay about what I make as a non-AI IT sysadmin, which is given my experience on the higher scale but by no means exceptional.

      What Google and co wants is a glut of people 4-6 years from now that are "trained" in AI from college. You put out a report like this, you get massive amounts of people applying for the schools that offer programs and 5 years from now you have an over-abundance of people driving down overall wages. You also get to hire a bunch of people on H1B because the "US doesn't have the skillz" and you end up with a bunch of programmers on H1B under the guise of AI development.

      Methinks that you are spot on. They're trying to build a glut and drive salaries down. What's going to happen when AI becomes so simple that the home-based small business can do it? This is kind of a repeat of the days when companies were "scrambling" for people with MCSEs and Novell Certified Engineers. The good times lasted a short while, the bubble burst, and there was a glut of trained folks. For a while in the early 2000s, I remember that employers looking for mere help desk talent were requiring peopl

      • Home based business can already do AI. Iâ(TM)ve built an âoeAI systemâ for advertisement optimization using crowd tracking from open source libraries and some Python glue in a matter of hours. The thing âoelearnsâ and can âoepredictâ demand very rudimentary. I built something similar about a decade ago for systems monitoring and although it ended up being just fed random data, it could predict hard drive failures rather accurate simply based on peripheral data.

        Pure AI does

      • What's going to happen when AI becomes so simple that the home-based small business can do it?

        That always happens. When it gets simple enough, people call it by the name of a technique and it ceases to be AI. In the meantime, there's always harder problems to work on, which will be considered AI for some time to come.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      So what is the alternative? If you have a skills shortage you should try to hush it up, and whatever you do don't advertise well paid positions with those skills because it might cause people to acquire them and drive down wages in 5 years time.

      This is how it has always worked. New skills come into demand due to advances in technology or changes in society. Initially they are highly paid, eventually they become common and less well paid. No point complaining about it, you just have to keep developing new sk

      • by guruevi ( 827432 )

        My point is not about AI jobs (which don't quite exist yet), those are fine and will go through the process naturally, the problem here is that Google and co is guising regular programming jobs as 'working on AI' jobs and then claiming a shortage.

        The other point I was trying to make is that there is no actual shortage of "AI research people" to work on self-driving cars and image recognition, we've figured the theory behind that out, the implementation however requires some programming people and here again

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is spin. They are trying to get more entrants into the field. I am in the field, and I don't know anyone making more than ~120k/year, which is mean for CS workers in Silicon Valley.

  • It is just one more AI-generated Slashdot headline [slashdot.org]!
  • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @10:12AM (#55423433)
    Well, at least we'll have another bubble to form and expand once the bitcoin bursts. It seems like this is the way the stock market works. The few at the top profit heavily from the bubble, the bubble bursts, and the 99% are left to deal with the aftermath.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      The trick is how to profit from a bubble. If the big co's buy up all the AI co's, then you cannot put stock "puts" on them to gain when they crash. An AI crash won't affect the big co's that much.

  • ""Tech's biggest companies are placing huge bets on artificial intelligence (Warning: may be paywalled;"

    And also no paywall, if you delete your cookies after the allowed number of articles.
    These 'paywalls' are a joke.

    • by slew ( 2918 )

      ""Tech's biggest companies are placing huge bets on artificial intelligence (Warning: may be paywalled;"

      And also no paywall, if you delete your cookies after the allowed number of articles.
      These 'paywalls' are a joke.

      Security should be provided at an appropriate level given the value of the object being protected...
      Given the articles they are protecting, I think they are doing a bang-up job... ;^)

  • Author writes "AI Talent", then refers to Machine Learning.
    Machine Learning refers to a few statistical regression techniques that is not what artificial intelligence is about.

    Artificial Intelligence is more of a research field, and the concept of human intelligence remains an unsolved problem ---
    what it sounds like they are really hiring are hard-core Computer Scientists with some experience attacking real-world solution-finding problems like extracting useful intelligence from data, classifying or ide

  • They should hire me for a huge salary...

    I did an AI course as part of my BSc Computer Science back in the 90's.

    For a project I made an "Expert System" (or was it called a Smart System back then), wherein I wrote a front end in VB6 (might have been 4), that was attached to a Access DB that contained all the beers on tap (I think there were 30ish) at one of our favorite drinking establishments, along with all of their characteristics, that prompted the user with a bevy of questions to determine and suggest wh

    • I bet you spent a good bit of time on the "testing phase" to make sure it really worked.

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Ah, but do you have experience writing an application based on CNN running on NVidia DGX-1 while working at a research lab working with supercomputing where you were mentored by a leading expert in the field. If not, you're not qualified.

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