25 June, 2024

In the AI vanguard

08 May, 2018

Technologies aligned with artificial intelligence (AI) are developing as a rapid pace and are gaining major traction within the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0-related areas such as machine learning, robotics and autonomous vehicles. As a Stanford University paper – ‘Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030’ – neatly pointed out, “there is growing interest in applications that can utilise the complementary strengths of humans and machines – for humans to help AI systems to overcome their limitations, and for agents to augment human abilities and activities.”

There has been some debate about whether AI will largely impact on people’s value in the workplace and threaten jobs. However, the UK’s artificial intelligence sector is apparently growing apace; in fact, even faster than our rivals in America, Canada and Australia – putting the UK on course to be the global leader in AI technology. At least, that’s the finding of new data released by job site, Indeed. AI technologies require highly skilled workers who can develop and maintain complex systems and applications. Over the past three years, demand from UK employers for these types of workers has almost tripled, according to Indeed’s research.

Roles typically include data scientists and machine learning engineers, specialists who play a crucial part in teaching machines how to use and interpret data. Indeed makes the point that millions of us interact with AI on a daily basis, often without realising. Smart home devices such as the Amazon Echo, or cutting-edge tech such as facial recognition software and driverless cars, are some of the more obvious examples of AI in use.

AI jobs can also pay well above the UK average salary, with data scientists typically taking home £56,385 a year and machine learning engineers earning an average of £54,617 a year.

However, despite the financial rewards on offer, it can still be a challenge to find the talent. Indeed researchers found that the share of available AI jobs in Britain outstripped the share of interested candidates by 6 times. The number of UK jobseekers looking for AI roles has doubled since 2015, but it’s still struggling to keep up with demand from employers.

Due to its booming tech sector, the UK has a higher concentration of available AI jobs than the US, Canada and Australia. At the start of 2018, 1300 out of every million UK jobs advertised on Indeed were in AI, nearly double the level in Canada and over 20% more than the level in the US.

Tara Sinclair, economist and senior fellow at Indeed, believes that, from both a jobs and society perspective, AI is a technology that has the potential to be truly transformative. “A number of companies are exploring how AI might be used to boost their bottom line, while also holding out the prospect of previously un-dreamt of technology that could one day excite and delight millions of people. Britain’s reputation as a tech leader has made it a natural home for the booming AI sector, and the UK’s concentration of AI jobs has risen steadily – and now outstrips that in the other major English-speaking countries. AI jobs are not for everyone, as they require highly specialised skills. So, it’s essential that post-Brexit Britain retains the ability to attract the global talent it needs to keep its AI sector in pole position.”

While it remains rather unclear as to how many more traditional jobs will be made largely obsolete by artificial intelligence over the longer term, AI currently appears to be providing a boost to the UK jobs market. It will be interesting to see how things continue to unfold over the next few years. Watch this space.

Ed Holden


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