What to Study

What to study: Artificial intelligence

artificial intelligence
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen with NAO, a programmable humanoid robot developed by French robotics company Aldebaran Robotics. Source: Stephanie Lecocq/Poo/AFP

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been touted as a gamechanger in the future job market. In the UK alone, one in three jobs is likely to be automated or changed as a result of AI.

This has created a great demand for data experts across every industry that employs the use of computer systems. According to LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, the demand for AI experts has grown 74% annually over the past five years. It is now the number one emerging job.

artificial intelligence

The humanoid robot Sophia, developed by Hong Kong based company Hanson Robotics, appears on stage in Kolkata, India. Source: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning

In its simplest sense, AI mimics human thinking power in systems and their machines. It involves the science of building intelligent programmes, through algorithms that power your music recommendations on Spotify and routes on Google Maps.

On the other hand, machine learning is a subfield of AI that enables computer systems to make decisions based on historical data — without being explicitly programmed. They involve a type of algorithms called neural networks.

Then there’s deep learning, a further subset of machine learning. It uses these neural networks to analyse different factors, similar to how the human neural system works.

All three are key to unlocking the power of complex computer systems to solve issues of all scales.

What will I learn?

AI technology today is heavily reliant on strong data and computing power, says Watrix CEO Huang Yongzhen.

This has created the belief that a strong theoretical foundation is no longer necessary. “Sometimes it works. But when you are facing some deeper problems, it may be difficult to resolve without a solid theoretical foundation,” Huang commented.

So while a purely technical background is not necessary, it surely helps you get ahead in AI. You should know programming languages and advanced mathematics (statistics, linear algebra, calculus) to begin.

You will delve into machine learning, neural network technology, deep learning. Besides that, you can dive deeper with specialisations such as computer vision. Start with online courses and certifications, such as this six-week programme from the Massachusets Institute of Technology (MIT).

artificial intelligence

Ryan Todd of Bosch North America demonstrates a smart sun visor which uses artificial intelligence to block glare at the media preview of the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 5, 2020. Source: Robert Lever/AFP

What are my career opportunities in artificial intelligence?

Given the booming demand for AI specialists, a qualification in this field can be your ticket into any modern industry. Alibaba estimates that these experts currently earn an average annual salary of US$136,000.

Research advisory Gartner predicts that AI will create 2.3 million new jobs by the end of 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Tech giants are only expanding their scope of AI research and development. Companies need AI experts to upgrade all sorts of processes, from logistics to sales.

You can break into data analytics, user experience, natural language processing, or software engineering. You can even choose to explore academia by carrying out crucial AI research.

Simply put, you cannot go wrong with this specialisation.

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