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What Is Artificial Intelligence?

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When we think of artificial intelligence, we might think of robots like the ones in “Ex Machina,” who are scarily smarter, closer to humans, and more perceptive than we think. Luckily, that’s an extreme, fictional example. The reality is that artificial intelligence is an innovative, growing field that offers creative opportunities for those who want to revolutionize the way we use technology. So, what is artificial intelligence, and what does a career in the field look like? This guide will cover: 

Artificial Intelligence Overview

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science concerning machines that can synthesize and process information to problem-solve

The concept first came into public view with Alan Turing’s 1950 paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” which explored whether we could train machines to think like humans. The “Turing Test,” which evaluates whether a machine is indistinguishable from a human, was born from Turing’s work. 

Artificial intelligence has come a long way since the Turing Test, which has since been questioned for its accuracy and ethical implications. AI professionals are now primarily focused on teaching machines to think and learn to help us problem-solve — rather than training them to be indistinguishable from humans. 

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Artificial Intelligence Examples

We might think of artificial intelligence applications as super-robots that can do things like beating humans in Jeopardy, but many of us interact with AI daily. Artificial intelligence can recognize our voices, identify and categorize images, and even converse with us. 

Artificial intelligence examples include:

  • Search engines, like Google search
  • Virtual assistants, like Siri and Alexa
  • Chatbots, like ChatGPT 
  • Recommendation algorithms, like Netflix recommendations
  • Face recognition, like face ID
  • Navigation services, like Google and Apple Maps
  • Text editing tools, like auto-correct and Grammarly

>>MORE: How to Use ChatGPT in Your Job Search

Artificial Intelligence Careers

While many artificial intelligence professionals work at technology or software companies, artificial intelligence is a broad field that can apply to a variety of industries, from health care to finance and even to music — just ask SPLY85, a DJ who uses AI to create an application that makes new music based on previous popular tracks. 

AI professionals can hold different job titles depending on what part of artificial intelligence they’re working on. For example, some might be more research-focused, while others may be working to build an application’s software. Some common job titles in the career path include: 

To get into the field of artificial intelligence, you’ll need the right hard skills and the ability to solve problems creatively — often because you’re working on abstract concepts and capabilities that haven’t been invented yet. Some skills for the AI career path include:

>>MORE: Learn more about how to get into artificial intelligence.

Pros and Cons of Working in Artificial Intelligence

So, what are the pros and cons of working in the field? While AI professionals are in demand, the industry is rapidly changing — which means you’ll need to keep up with new technology while fielding growing ethical concerns.

Pros of Artificial Intelligence Jobs

Career Advancement

“AI professionals are in demand, which means one thing: career advancement opportunities,” says Richard Gardner, CEO of Anthropic AI, a sales automation company. “Many take on positions like data scientist and even CTO. Also, there are high-level academic positions available for those who are properly credentialed. The demand is only likely to increase from here.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the job outlook for computer and information research scientists, which include AI professions, will grow 21% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than average.

Good Pay

Although job titles in the field can vary depending on what area of artificial intelligence you work on, this career path is typically lucrative.

According to the BLS, the median salary for computer and information research scientists is $131,490. Average salaries for standard job titles in the field, according to Glassdoor, are:

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Cutting-Edge Technology

“Go into artificial intelligence if you want to feel like you’re making a huge impact on tech, want a role that’s constantly changing, and like being on the cutting edge,” says Emma Brown, COO and co-founder of DeepMedia, an AI audio and video translation company. “If you like routine and security, that same thing can be a con.” 

Creative Freedom

Artificial intelligence professionals are innovating daily, often working on projects with entirely new capabilities. This work requires a “high degree of creativity, as you’re working on developing new algorithms and models that haven’t been created before,” SPLY85 says. 

Cons of Artificial Intelligence Jobs

A New Industry

While there are skills you can learn to succeed in this field, because you’re working on new technology, there’s a lot that you can’t as easily prepare for.

“This is a relatively new industry, which means there are not so many tutorials and detailed business and career plans,” says Vlad Hu, an SaaS consultant and Fiverr freelancer who leverages AI to create software products. “You have to stay agile and be willing to learn a lot of new skills: prompt engineering and improvement, basic software development or integration, and other technical aspects. The only thing that stops people from succeeding in AI is their willingness and ability to learn new things and adapt to a new environment.”

Long Hours

As an innovative and exciting field, no two days are the same. Yet a lack of routine and structure can lead to working overtime.

“But, the long hours can be really interesting,” Brown says. “You just have to be down for it.”

Ethical Concerns

AI has tremendous potential capabilities, but with those come worries about the consequences of its technological capabilities. 

“As AI becomes more powerful, there are also concerns about its potential impact on society,” SPLY85 says. “Issues like bias, privacy, and job displacement are all important considerations in the development and deployment of AI systems.”

These concerns can affect career prospects, too.

“There are still looming ethical concerns regarding the use of AI, which could make long-term prospects uncertain,” Gardner says. “That said, anybody with a strong background in the fundamentals necessary to be involved in AI will always be in high demand.”

Try out what it’s like to work in artificial intelligence with Cognizant’s free Artificial Intelligence Virtual Experience Program

Image credit: Andrew Neel / Pexels

Zoe Kaplan is a Senior Writer at Forage. Prior to joining Forage, she wrote and edited career and workplace content for Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women.