AI Is So Hot, Even Freelancers Are in Demand

Artificial intelligence is such a hot topic in software development that companies are even seeking freelancers to help out with their AI-based projects.

One might not normally equate AI development -- which can involve complicated, cutting-edge technologies such as cognitive computing, machine learning, deep learning and so on in long-term initiatives -- as something suitable for freelance projects, but news from freelancing firm Upwork indicates that's the case.

Upwork, which matches employers with freelancers, published data from its Web site that showed AI was the second-fastest-growing in-demand skill in the first quarter of the year. No 1, perhaps somewhat inexplicably, is "Asana work tracking."

But, among development-related skills, AI is No. 1, followed by skills such as natural language processing, C++ development, Swift development and others, with the AI-related machine learning skill also making the top 20 list.

"With artificial intelligence (AI) at the forefront of the conversation around what the future of work holds, it's no surprise it is the fastest-growing tech skill and the second fastest-growing skill overall," Upwork said in a statement last week. "As AI continues to shape our world and influence nearly every major industry and country, companies are thinking about how to incorporate it into their business strategies, and professionals are developing skills to capitalize upon this accelerating tech trend. While some speculate that AI may be taking jobs away, others argue it's creating opportunity, which is evidenced by demand for freelancers with this skill."

Upwork Q1 2017 Skills Index
[Click on image for larger view.] Upwork Q1 2017 Skills Index (source: Upwork)

"It's much easier to see when jobs go away than it is to envision the jobs that will be created but our data clearly shows that businesses are embracing AI and that it's creating enormous opportunity," added CEO Stephane Kasriel.

Kasriel isn't the only one forecasting the opportunities promised by AI. The technology is so hot right now that venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee recently told CNBC that AI is the "singular thing that will be larger than all of human tech revolutions added together, including electricity, [the] industrial revolution, Internet, mobile Internet -- because AI is pervasive."

Perhaps surprisingly, that pervasiveness didn't show up in Upwork's previous listing of in-demand skills for the third quarter of 2016, in which AI didn't even place in the top 20 (though machine learning was No. 1):

Upwork Q3 2016 Skills Index
[Click on image for larger view.] Upwork Q3 2016 Skills Index (source: Upwork)

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.