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Friday, February 16, 2018

Machine-Learning: TRISTEN R BLAKE In the War for AI Talent, Sky-High Salaries Are the Weapons - Bloomberg

In the War for AI Talent, Sky-High Salaries Are the Weapons - Bloomberg: "On Feb. 7, Element AI, a Montreal startup that helps businesses design and implement machine learning systems, published a report concluding that about 22,000 Ph.D.-level computer scientists around the world are capable of building AI systems. Of those, only about 3,000 are currently looking for a job. In contrast, at least 10,000 related positions are open in the U.S. alone, says Element CEO Jean-Francois Gagné.
These figures are well below another estimate put out in December by Tencent Holdings Ltd., the Chinese internet giant. It wrote that the world has perhaps 200,000 to 300,000 “AI practitioners and researchers.” Element says Tencent counted too many coders who merely contribute to projects and lack the expertise to create novel algorithms and applications from scratch. The Montreal company, however, acknowledges that its own methodology had shortcomings.
Element scoured LinkedIn for people whose profiles included doctorates earned since 2015, mentioned key phrases (natural language processing, computer vision), and listed among their skills the programming languages (Python, TensorFlow) that underlie most AI software. The company says this might exclude a lot of researchers in places where LinkedIn isn’t relevant or who have experience but not a fancy degree.
Vishal Chatrath, co-founder and CEO of, an automation startup in Cambridge, England, hasn’t had trouble recruiting AI developers. “Talent hires talent,” he says. The important thing, he says, is to have intriguing problems to solve and some outstanding mathematicians and technicians already on staff to stoke expert interest. An added attraction is that Chatrath and his co-founders sold their previous company, voice recognition startup VocalIQ, to Apple Inc. in 2015.
Element has an incentive to highlight scarcity. The more companies despair of hiring their own experts, the more they’ll need vendors such as Element to do the work for them. “The talent shortage is real,” says Gagné, adding that he’s been struggling to hire even with AI pioneer Yoshua Bengio among his co-founders. Bengio, a computer scientist at the University of Montreal, is one of three men credited with helping to lead the AI boom. The other two are Yann LeCun, now at Facebook Inc., and Geoffrey Hinton, now at Google.
Governments and universities need to spend more money on training, Gagné says, especially at the undergraduate and master’s levels. At the current education rate, an influx of new experts will start to moderate salaries in three to four years, he says.
Most businesses don’t want to wait that long. Intel, Facebook, and Google are creating their own internal AI training programs. Google is also one of the companies experimenting with automatic machine learning, or AutoML, meaning AI that can create its own AI. The search giant recently began offering the service to cloud customers.
Despite the possibility of automatic machine learning, the demand for expertise has attracted swarms of headhunters to once-staid academic confabs with names such as the Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference. To woo candidates, recruiters organize increasingly swanky private dinners and after-parties. Chris Rice, head of global talent acquisition for Intel’s AI product group, says there’s little choice but to recruit aggressively at such events. “With talent this scarce,” he said at a NIPS conference in December, “it can be hard to find people.”
    BOTTOM LINE - Research from Element AI indicates only 22,000 people around the world have the AI skills most tech companies want, but that isn’t an especially scientific .

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