Translated by Gao Jing
How many artificial intelligence (AI) practitioners are there in the world? How many companies are recruiting AI talent? A recent report released by LinkedIn, a social networking site used by professionals to connect, showed that the total number of people working in the field of AI has reached 1.9 million globally and demand for AI manpower has increased eightfold over the past three years. Based on its vast pool of 500 million users and through the implementation of big data analytics, LinkedIn gave an in-depth account of the status quo, mobility and supply and demand relating to AI professionals all over the world.
Though AI only recently became a buzzword, the development of AI talent began more than a decade ago. Among those working in the industry around the world, 65.4 percent have more than 10 years of experience in AI. It is noteworthy that the number of Chinese AI professionals globally now totals 140,000. This group of people has huge potential to become a leading force in driving the development of China’s AI technology.
AI Talent in Great Demand
After comparing the professional careers of AI personnel in LinkedIn’s database, it became clear that a majority of AI practitioners have rich experience in this area despite the fact that the AI remains an emerging industry. At the global level, the US, boasting cutting-edge technologies, is home to 850,000 AI professionals, making it number one on the list. China takes fifth place with more than 50,000 people engaged in the AI industry. In terms of hands-on experience, 71.5 percent of US-based AI practitioners have worked in the field for more than 10 years, higher than the global average of 65.4 percent.
Despite the large pool of AI personnel, high-end talent remains in great demand as the industry is undergoing a period of rapid growth. Over the past three years, the number of AI recruitment positions posted on LinkedIn has soared from 50,000 to 440,000, an eight-fold increase. In terms of specific areas, the strongest demand for talent comes in the form of basic resource support, especially in areas such as algorithms, machine learning, GPU and AI chips. Compared with AI technology and application, basic resources support sees a more obvious talent gap.
The surge in demand for AI personnel has urged hi-tech companies to turn their eyes to top academic talent in universities. According to related data, however, research at Chinese universities and institutes maintained a net inflow of talent from 2013 to 2015. This indicates that while enterprises have made greater investment in headhunting, the universities themselves are facing a shortage of qualified personnel. Industry experts suggest that AI companies could launch cooperation with universities and research institutes in personnel training and research and development to improve resource complementation and the full use of available AI manpower.
Small in Number But Strong
The sheer number of China’s AI professionals falls short of that of the US, but China’s talent enjoys certain advantages in other aspects.
Since practitioners with 10 years of experience or more account for only 38.7 percent of total AI professionals in China, there is a huge gap between China and the US in terms of the number of senior AI personnel. However, at the same time, 62.1 percent of Chinese AI professionals have a master’s degree or higher, while in the US 56.5 percent do. This means that despite being relatively young and less experienced, AI practitioners in China have high academic qualifications and a strong ability to adapt, and their potential cannot be underestimated.
With regard to personnel distribution, AI talent in the two countries enjoy respective advantages in different industry segments. Over 70 percent of AI professionals in the US are engaged in basic resources support, while China has stronger manpower in AI technology and application, especially in robotics, image recognition, precision marketing, automated driving and other areas.