Across the realms of consumers and businesses, artificial intelligence (AI) has been wielding great influence and reshaping society as it were. Hailed as a key component of the 4th Industrial Revolution (along with the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, quantum computing, and other technologies), the rise of AI could well be considered as a seminal stage in the development of humanity.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial Intelligence (AI), broadly speaking, is the ability of machines to replicate the abilities of human intelligence in tasks such that efficiency is boosted and errors go down. With concepts of basic engineering, mathematics, computer science, linguistics, and psychology, among others, AI bases itself on the fundamentals of reasoning, learning, and problem-solving. A career in artificial intelligence is certainly an attractive prospect.
Where can AI be applied?
AI can be categorized in multiple ways, of which the most common is as below:
- Weak/Narrow AI: trained to do specific tasks or functions
- Strong AI: capable of making its own decisions when presented with actionable data
AI has great potential in terms of applicability in a variety of sectors. Some examples are given below:
- Autonomous driving: Tesla, Google and others have been working for a while on autonomous driving technology, where AI is a basic building block. Ongoing work could soon see wider instances of fully-autonomous driving technology across the world.
- Finance: Financial institutions such as banks have been using AI for trading and fraud protection, as AI can detect anomalies or irregularities in the system and trigger warnings in advance.
- Predictive maintenance: proactively scheduling maintenance and hence minimizing costs
- Smart cities: better safety, reduced crime, higher energy efficiency
The future uses of AI are even more exciting. Possible applications are many:
- Personalized, dynamic pricing: online and offline stores map prices as per consumer behavior
- Mobile ads: improved targeting based on online activity and purchase history
- Faster designing of products: aided by quicker sifting through large amounts of customer data through machine learning and deep learning
Related: – The Illusion of CreArtificial Intelligence
How good is the potential for an AI career?
As a technology, AI is still in its initial stages, and there is a lot more that the technology could do with further development. The market is expanding fast and a lot of opportunities keep coming up for a career in artificial intelligence. A survey by job site Indeed suggested that in the UK alone, the number of jobs available in AI has gone up by 485% during 2014-2017 i.e. demand outstrips supply by a factor of 2:1! Across the world, job postings in this field have more than doubled.
Automation and AI were feared as possible death knells for “traditional” jobs, but what has transpired is that AI has in effect created many more jobs than it has taken away i.e. the net effect has been one of new job opportunities coming up. Salaries in the AI domain are skyrocketing too – well-skilled AI professionals in the US can comfortably earn six figures and possibly even higher packages.
How does one begin a career in AI?
Hiring managers tend to require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in mathematics along with basic computer technology for those aspiring to begin careers in AI. This, though, is likely to suffice the requirements only of entry-level positions, and if you want to step up in roles and responsibilities, you could consider adding on an AI certification from a recognized, accredited institution.
Some of the key skills for AI specialists include:
- Bayesian networking (including neural nets)
- Computer science (gain coding experience with popular programming languages)
- Cognitive science theory
- Algebra, calculus, logic and algorithms, probability, statistics
If you are already a software engineer, you could take a definitive step towards a career in AI with some specialized or focused AI courses, many of which are available freely on the internet as well as from recognized institutions and delivered both online as well as through classroom training. If you do not have the time or other resources for long-duration courses, you could choose an AI certification that you could do part- or full-time.
What are the possible career paths?
The possible career paths differ as per the experience level. These include:
- Freshers: these would do well to get skilled in mathematics as well as courses in machine learning, programming skills like C++, general business knowledge, and hands-on training.
- Programmers: these could start coding by moving to algorithms.
- Data analysts and data scientists: these need to strengthen their programming skills by knowing how to prepare data, be proficient at visualizing and building models, and have good communication skills and business knowledge.