Written by Richard Gall
Artificial intelligence is everywhere, we’re often told. And while it’s tempting to think the tech sector is a hotbed of AI development and innovation, it would seem, for the most part, that it isn’t.
In a survey by tech publisher Packt, of more than 2,800 developers working in a diverse range of fields, from web design to cybersecurity, 28% of respondents said they were using “tools that enable AI in their day to day role.” That’s not an insignificant number, but it’s clear that in the wide and expanding world of modern software engineering, artificial intelligence is only a small slice of reality.
However, that’s just part of the story – where it gets really interesting is that the survey results also showed that 75% of respondents were planning on learning “AI-related tools in the next 12 months.” That highlights that we are on the cusp of a radical transformation of the tech industry, with thousands – millions even – of individual stories about how software developers are updating and learning new skills to leverage the opportunities of artificial intelligence.
Mobile developers are most likely to learn AI tools
One of the most interesting aspects of responses to that question was how respondents working in different fields answered. An amazing 87% of developers working in mobile said they were planning on learning AI related technologies in the year to come – more than any other area.
A key driver of this is not only the increasing use of artificial intelligence in mobile apps – think of applications that compare faces with art, apps that identify flowers and trees and even translate languages – but also the ease of which it can now be accomplished.
In May, for example, at Google I/O, Google launched ML kit, a software development kit that allows developers to leverage artificial intelligence in their apps in a really simple way. Brahim Elbouchikhi, the machine learning lead for Android, said at the time that it should “make machine learning just another tool available to mobile developers. It’s not exceptional… It’s just another part of the toolkit to build really awesome apps.”
Although ML Kit can be used for iOS as well as Android, Apple’s CoreML is also making waves in the iOS development world. Like ML Kit, it’s is designed to make it easy for mobile developers to integrate machine learning and artificial intelligence into their apps.
The story here is actually quite an obvious one – engineers don’t want to learn ‘artificial intelligence’, but they do want to learn tools that make it easy and accessible. That, ultimately, is going to be what really helps drive artificial intelligence into the mainstream – how accessible it is for the people who actually build things with it.
Those on the highest and lowest salaries are most likely to learn artificial intelligence
Another interesting way to look at the data is by salary. The two groups most likely to learn artificial intelligence tools in the next year are those earning under $15K a year (79%) or those in the top salary bracket – earning over $150K (83%).
This indicates that for those looking to build their careers, artificial intelligence is viewed as a fantastic route to a higher salary. Meanwhile, while those on the middle bracket are, perhaps, feeling more comfortable and stable in their chosen field, the very highest paid people in tech are exploring and pushing at the very frontiers of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Developers aren’t just adapting to change – they’re driving it too
Clearly, the global economy is going through a huge shift thanks to artificial intelligence – and the tech industry is one of the areas that’s going to be hit the hardest. However, the survey is an acute reminder that while we often like to think of technological change as revolutionary and dramatic, even the largest transformations take time – they evolve.
And, even more importantly, these changes don’t happen to people, they are made by people. So, yes as software developers adapt and change as they learn and explore the new possibilities out there, it’s essential to keep in mind that it’s actually these adaptations that shape what the AI revolution looks like for the future.
Richard Gall is the co-editor of the Packt Hub, a technology news site from publisher Packt. He’s interested in the intersection between technology, culture, business and politics.