The Strategist

Tech giants lure AI professionals

11/29/2016 - 14:46

Experts in artificial intelligence are fleeing from American universities to technology companies. Google, Microsoft, Facebook are enticing scientists by offering them better conditions for funding and research. According to experts, this trend can lead to depletion of research base of universities, and problems with training of new specialists.

Sage Ross
Sage Ross
Leading technology companies, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Baidu, are increasingly luring artificial intelligence researchers from universities. According to The Wall Street Journal, more and more scientists are choosing jobs in technology companies, while popularity of universities is plummeting. In November, Google Inc. has hired two experts in artificial intelligence - Jia Li, former Director of Research at Snapchat, and Fei-Fei Li, Head of laboratory for artificial intelligence at Stanford University.

Other artificial intelligence researchers, who recently have yielded to persuasion of technological corporations, are Geoffrey Hinton (joined Google from the University of Toronto), Yann LeCun (moved from New York University to Facebook), Andrew Ng (from Stanford University Baidu), Alex Smola (from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to Amazon). Technology companies offer higher salaries, extended funding, better conditions for research as well as sense of participation creation of products, which will benefit tens of millions of people. According to the US National Science Foundation (NSF), average annual salary of specialists in computer science at universities was $ 55 thousand in 2014, while companies offered $ 110 thousand.

Experts warn that this trend may drains research base of universities including in regard to training of new professionals. "People are starting to wonder whether we somehow endanger our ability to meet demand of the industry in the future", - said Marc Riedl from the Georgia Institute of Technology. According to NSF, number of computer science specialists, who have just received Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), and then started to work for commercial companies, has grown from 38% 10 years ago to current 57%.

Technology companies are trying to mitigate negative impact on universities by funding research and participating in training of students. IBM, Google, Facebook, Baidu, Microsoft have funded university researches. IBM also launched Cognitive Horizons Network, a consortium of six institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for cooperation with university researchers. Many of scientists, migrating to work for private sector, combine this job with teaching. "Although it is very good that many researchers often continue to work in their schools, this is not quite the same for students," - said professor of artificial intelligence at Cornell University Bart Selman.

According to World Economic Forum-2016’s report, more than 7 million people will be forced to change their qualification in three years. Those, whose job can be automated - cashiers, office managers, waiters, agricultural workers, "white collars", are at the biggest risk. However, everyone, including managers, will have to adapt to the new reality.

According to experts, the most promising careers of the near future are Big Data analysts, professional salespeople and trouble-shooters. Creative professionals with critical thinking, who speak several foreign languages and know basics of management, marketing and finance, will be in most demand.