What to Do in a Tough Economy How to Survive and Thrive Amid Economic Uncertainty

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Photograph of light at the end of a tunnel

Dear friends,

The economic downturn of the past six months has hit many individuals and companies hard, and I’ve written about the impact of rising interest rates on AI. The effects of high inflation, the Russian war in Ukraine, and an economic slowdown in China are rippling across the globe. Even though unemployment in the U.S. is low, within the tech world, I continue to hear things that point to the possibility that we might go through a challenging time for many months to come.

The layoffs at Twitter and Meta are well publicized. Anecdotally, I’ve heard many worrisome stories: Students are having a hard time finding internships for next summer, entrepreneurs are having greater difficulty raising capital, companies are freezing hiring and reducing headcount, and employees are facing effective pay cuts as falling share prices reduce the value of their stock-based compensation. Some managers have told me they want to preserve their machine learning teams — which they hired with great difficulty — but the tech market has cooled and likely will take a while to pick up.

What can we do amid the turmoil? Even if the tech world slumps, the long-term value of AI is still clear to me, and it’s worth lifting our eyes toward the future to position ourselves for the eventual rebound.

I’d like to draw attention to three investments that I believe will retain or increase their value even in uncertain times. If you’re wondering where to put your effort, attention, or money, consider these areas:

  • Deep technology. AI technologies from programming frameworks like TensorFlow and PyTorch to algorithmic breakthroughs like transformers and diffusion models have deep and long-lasting value. Deep tech is difficult to build, and it transforms the way we do AI. I’m continuing to work on deep tech in data-centric AI. Collectively we should keep working to build deep tech, and I’m confident that the long-term benefits to society will be profound.
  • Training. During a bumpy job market, many people stay in school longer (if they can afford it) in the hope of graduating into a healthier job market. Real expertise in technology will continue to hold tremendous value because it helps you to shape the future. So if you’re not sure what to invest in, keep investing in your own technical skills. Wherever the world ends up, people with deep technical skill in AI will be in demand.
  • Community. Having lived in different places, I’ve seen first-hand how some cities have strong communities, where neighbors watch out for each other and lend a helping hand when people are down on their luck, and weak ones, where hardly anyone knows anyone else, and falling sick means having to take care of yourself. The AI community has always been stronger together. If we can step back from wondering how to build our next project or get that promotion and, instead, ask how we can help others around us, the investment in human relationships will have tremendous value.

Whether or not the economic downturn affects you, I’m here to support you. As we sail through a potentially tough time in the coming months, remember that the long-term impact of AI has been and will continue to be huge. Let’s keep helping each other and investing in things that will make us stronger for when the world exits its current slump.

Keep learning!



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