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Tencent Says There Are Only 300,000 AI Engineers Worldwide, But Millions Are Needed ( 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: It's well-established that talent is in short supply in the AI industry, but a new report from Chinese tech giant Tencent underscores how great the need might be. According to the study, compiled by the Tencent Research Institute, there are just 300,000 "AI researchers and practitioners" worldwide, but the "market demand" is for millions of roles. These are unavoidably speculative figures, and the study does not offer much detail on how they were reached, but as a general trend they fit with other, more anecdotal reports. Around the world, tech giants regularly complain about the difficulty hiring AI engineers, and the demand has pushed salaries to absurd heights. Individuals with just a few year's experience can expect base pay of between $300,000 and $500,000 a year, says The New York Times, while the very best will collect millions. One independent AI lab told the publication that there were only 10,000 individuals worldwide with the right skills to spearhead serious new AI projects.

Tencent's new "2017 Global AI Talent White Paper" suggests the bottleneck here is education. It estimates that 200,000 of the 300,000 active researchers are already employed in various industries (not just tech), while the remaining 100,000 are still studying. Attendance in machine learning and AI courses has skyrocketed in recent years, as has enrollment in online courses, but there is obviously a lag as individuals complete their education.

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Tencent Says There Are Only 300,000 AI Engineers Worldwide, But Millions Are Needed

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Learn to code

  • The slower the development of (possibly malicious) AI, the better.
  • That name (Score:4, Funny)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @06:15PM (#55683707)

    Tecent... isn't that 50 Cent's little brother? What is a rapper doing telling us what we need for AI?

    Besides it seems the AI's are better at building themselves than we are, so I say just give them unlimited compute power and internet access and have at it.

    • I don't know, but there is some blathering in the summary about "researchers," even though the field doesn't seem to be researching anything.

      It is probably just some idiots at an AI department who didn't know there are also software engineers, who actually do the work.

      It is just a regular computer, it is just a set of software techniques and use cases; outside of employees of academic institutions there is no reason to get a narrow research-related degree instead of a mainstream work-related degree.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        More simply, fuzzy logic programmers with the ability to create a false impression of artificial intelligence with great marketing. Keep in mind major corporations are playing the game and playing it for big profits. Just like with data mining, which produces a lot of information, in fact way more than you are capable of processing effectively so heh, heh, AI, to keep the lie going and the billions flowing. You can just data mine, you need to pay extra for AI to process it, we promise it will work this time

        • For most business use cases you're better off with an expert system, and all you need are a bunch of regular engineers.

  • by AlanBDee ( 2261976 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @06:21PM (#55683751)

    If the salary isn't enough to get you interested it's very likely the very last job that will be taken over by AI. It would also be a great opportunity to be a part of the next major transformation in human civilization.

    • If the salary isn't enough to get you interested it's very likely the very last job that will be taken over by AI.

      Seems more likely to be one of the first. I think we are going to succeed in making an AI which can make better AIs long before we build an AI which can actually replace any other complex profession. It doesn't even have too be that good at it initially ... it will get better all on it's own.

      • I have conducted an informal survey of humans occupying jobs across the employment spectrum, and the vast majority are of the opinion their job will be one of the last replaced, or never replaced, by robotic workers or Artificial intelligence.

        I'm pretty sure it's a coping mechanism.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Based on the history of AI and the claims made early on when computers were able to pass math tests or predict elections, it's possible that people are vastly underestimating the difficulty of automating many jobs.

          Current AI is not very strong. In particular, it lacks what you might call common sense or common knowledge. It's really obvious with translation software that can't understand the context around words and phrases.

          A good example would be lawyers. Seems like an easy one to replace, the law is just

          • A good example would be lawyers. Seems like an easy one to replace, the law is just a set of rules that are applied, right? Except that much of the work is actually dealing with people, understanding how things work in the real world with timing and banks and people behaving inconsistently or lying.

            Appealing to a human judge and jury while representing a human defendant would seem to favor human lawyers, although the job of jury duty might well be one we voluntarily abandon to the machines. Perhaps like migrant workers, robotics and artificial intelligence will gain a foothold by performing those tasks we find the least attractive.

      • ... it will get better all on it's own.

        Do you think it might even learn how to use apostrophes?

  • by i286NiNJA ( 2558547 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @06:26PM (#55683813) Journal

    Glassdoor says:

    How much does a Machine Learning Engineer make? The national average salary for a Machine Learning Engineer is $128,549 in United States.

    Yikes so even though the opportunity for profit is limitless. The available workers are a fraction of the demand and this is a sufficiently difficult subject that nobody will obtain credentials without hard work.

    It's still not as valuable as a Masters in English Literature from an Ivy, or even a law degree from a mediocre school. Playing with math that is currently almost magic and practicing a craft that approaches playing god. You're still not worth as much as even the most lowly of the elites you engineering scum and you can bet that we'll be shoving your wages way down as soon as someone shows us how to replace you with an H1B

    • "Machine Learning" and "AI" isn't Playing God, because it's nonsense. They are buzzwords created by companies like Google and Amazon to over-hype a Graph Database or other tool to operate on multi dimensional data structures. It's not "Learning" and it's not "Like a human brain", unless said human brain is that of the marketing drone that thought up this nonsense.
      • If they're talking about random forest type machine learning then there are already well over 300,000 people who can do the work they need. If they're talking about deep neural nets then in 2017 we're playing with magic in hopes of becoming a god.

        • we're playing with magic in hopes of becoming a god.

          Naw, that's just the echoing sound it makes when people heads get too filled up with buzzwords and arrogance at the same time.

      • We have AIs that can beat us at chess, go, and Jeopardy. They figure out how to play by themselves. Some AIs are driving cars now. In a year you could get an Uber driven by one.

        Sure, AIs can't do everything that we can do, but what they can do, they do better than us.

  • by erice ( 13380 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @06:50PM (#55683979) Homepage

    Attendance in machine learning and AI courses has skyrocketed in recent years, as has enrollment in online courses, but there is obviously a lag as individuals complete their education.

    No direct experience but an acquaintance of mine quit his job in ASIC layout to pursue a career in machine learning. He took a bunch of classes outside of a formal degree program and found that breaking in the field wasn't nearly as easy as he expected. I haven't talked to him in about six months but he was still looking the last I knew.

    This might explain the "shortage". If most of the students are in bootstrap style programs but employers deem those programs unsuitable, it is going to be a while before the gap is closed.

    • I'm about to finish my PhD in a subject closely related to Deep Learning. I don't find an appealing job here in Germany without relocation. So I'll go on doing embedded development.

    • Compare that to the .com era, when there was an actual shortage, and they hired anybody who could do the work.

      Like one recruiter back then said, "If you've been convicted of murder I might not be able to help you, but if it was only manslaughter lets talk!"

      If they care more about the paper than the skills, they didn't actually even have a need. That tells me that if somebody does have the right papers, the job will turn out to be something different, and they won't actually accept it, and the listing will s

    • by Rande ( 255599 )

      So it's the usual 'shortage' that's normal in IT? Where they complain there's a shortage of people with 10 years experience in a specific technology that's only existed for 5 years that has awesome communication skills and will work for peanuts?

  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @07:03PM (#55684083)
    They said the same thing in the 90's about programming, and look how that turned out. A few hot spots if you wanted to work for a lot of money at the expense of quality of life, and competing with foreigners from third world countries. I've known a few people who left for a real good position in my lifetime, but that only lasted for so long and a lot came back.
  • Yeah right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @07:27PM (#55684239) Homepage Journal
    More "AI" hype. Show me the job listings.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Take marketing classes and learn bullshitting. Then you can talk your way into the latest fad. It doesn't matter if you don't know anything real: the fad will die out or morph into some new BS before they find out.

      For example, the fools here got suckered into MS's cloud BS and built something that would make Rube Goldberg jizz. The guy who spearheaded it spouted magic-Lego's plug-and-play reuse, modularity, and instant scalability. Instead, it turned into bruised pasta, not Legos. The power of bullshit

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Have a look at the 64 open positions here: []

      Tencent is a Chinese company, most of their AI research is in China.

  • Let's just get robots to do it?

  • The problem is that most of the companies that are in need of AI developers are awful, and are using their AI for awful things. I don't care how much they pay, there's no way I could stomach working for them.

  • by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @07:44PM (#55684331) Homepage

    ...Google made an "AI" that created an "AI" that's better than itself. Seems like the direction to go?

  • We only have Skynet to blame for that. Who wants to be known to have created our new machine overlords
  • Needed by who? (Score:4, Informative)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @07:58PM (#55684421)
    way I see it last thing I need (as a member of the working class) is more automation. I see lots of folks railing against socialism and nobody giving any answers about what to do when there's suddenly millions of jobs just gone. I hear the same tired crap about new jobs in a new economy that I heard when the outsourcing began in the 90s and carried through into the 2000s. Anybody else remember biotech? Turns out you don't need that many biotech engineers. Not at the level of work I can do. If I was a genius maybe, but if everybody was a genius we wouldn't be in this mess, would we.
    • by winse ( 39597 )

      Automation frees up labor for more interesting work over time. Plus it typically creates a whole work force around it [] . If you're smart find another thing to do, if you're not just wait around to be forced into something else that you didn't choose. Look at what other Biotech people went to, or find a different thing. Don't be a socialist. Seriously [] .

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @08:32PM (#55684629)

    the bottleneck here is education

    Indeed it is, and it will remain, since tech giants hired university staff that could teach AI

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @08:44PM (#55684689) Journal

    Change the way AI is done. []

    It doesn't have to be so esoteric: make it "visible" as layered voting machines where each factor "votes". Use data layouts similar to spreadsheets and relational database reports so that "regular" office workers can study, arrange, relate to, and adjust factor weightings, mask weightings, and routing paths (similar to "hidden layers") as needed.

    Color coding, similar to Excel's conditional formatting [] can make high-match and low-match factors stand out for test cases or trouble-shooting.

    Staff can be divided similar to the processing tree. For example, in vision recognition, one group can focus on people identification, another on furniture and building identification, another on outdoor patterns, etc. The idea of one giant do-it-all monolithic neural-network is not practical if we want rank-and-file AI and dissect-able AI. Bring in modularity and divide-and-conquer techniques.

    You may need an experienced AI domain specialist to help divide up tasks and provide factor (test) guidelines or drafts, but once staff have their basic assignments they can focus and tune without being caught up in the big picture and way-out theory.

  • That one makes the AI, then that AI researches more AI?
    problem solved! now pay me.

"In matrimony, to hesitate is sometimes to be saved." -- Butler