The AI Job Market Shifts

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Tech giants have slowed down their hiring for pure AI research. But don’t let that cool your ambitions.

What’s new: Journalist Kevin McLaughlin at The Information spoke with six industry insiders – including Facebook’s Yann LeCun — about hiring trends. His sources said their companies no longer are building huge research teams. Instead, they’re staffing up AI engineering and product development.

Behind the news: The big AI companies were hiring researchers like there’s no tomorrow. Between 2016 and 2017, for instance, Microsoft’s researcher head count jumped from 5,000 to 8,000. Apparently, those efforts were successful enough that Microsoft and its peers have curbed their appetite for boundaries-pushing AI.

The next wave: Corporate AI research may sound like its a victim of its own success, but that’s not the whole story. An insider at Google told McLaughlin that the lower hiring rates for AI researchers need to be kept in context: Google was binging so hard on AI talent that any slowdown is going to look like cold turkey. The company still has plenty of research going on, it’s just not expanding at the former explosive rate. Instead, it’s shifting AI brainpower from research to product.

What they’re saying: “AI is in the process of maturing from academic and basic research, to niche applications, to wide deployment. As the field matures and as the tools become better, companies are massively increasing their investment in the engineering, development, tooling, and infrastructure related to AI.” — Yann LeCun, Facebook’s chief AI scientist, in The Information.

Our take: The majors may be seeing less need for research, but AI is moving from software into every industry, from medicine to agriculture to manufacturing. There's plenty of need for both researchers and product people, and that need will continue to grow.


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