When it comes to addressing the future of the artificial intelligence industry, few people are caught in the middle of every change and shift than academics pushing forward leading research at universities. Steve Kuyan of NYU and FutureLabs is at the crossroads of the future of academic research in AI is well as the business implementation side. He recently shared his unique insights and perspectives on what we might expect from the industry going forward. As AI continues to gain popularity due to its seemingly never ending list of use cases, it should come as no surprise that it is a hot topic of discussion.
Helping AI startups grow
Started as a partnership between New York University Tandon School of Engineering (NYU Tandon), the City of New York, the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), and the New York Economic Development Corporation, the Future Labs is focused on taking smaller companies and helping them to scale up in a way that will allow their businesses to grow in a steady and healthy way. Specifically, FutureLabs focuses on tech companies and the future of the technology industry to help produce what they consider to be future global leaders. Currently, FutureLabs offers programs specifically designed to take AI startups and help them to grow in a way that will allow them to find the right audience and lead them to inevitable success. Startups within this program are focused on designing AI technology that can serve the greater good and provide true aid to businesses and individuals around the world. The FutureLabs program has been actively supporting AI startups for almost a decade, going so far back that they had to market the companies as being focused on recommendation and personalization in the early days to get funding for AI projects since AI was not as widely embraced back them.
Making AI more accessible
In almost every case, the future of a growing field is in the hands of the students who are learning about it. Though several years back you would be hard pressed to find any students interested in taking classes on AI, these courses now fill up almost immediately because of the growing popularity within this area of study. NYU is no exception. FutureLabs is known for hosting conferences designed to bring innovative designers into a collective space to talk about what they are working on and how AI looks from multiple viewpoints. These conferences, which are filled with valuable information and inspiring stories are the exact kind of dialogues that you want students in AI programs to be exposed to. Watching the many ways that a student can use their degree is an excellent way to help keep them inspired and can help them to begin working on their own innovative designs. This is why when FutureLabs realized that the existing conferences were far too expensive for most average people or students to attend, they sought to make a conference with primary industry leaders that came at a reasonable price.
These conferences allowed for students to hear Netflix explain that without the innovative AI algorithms currently running their recommendation systems, they would have missed out on an estimated billion dollars in loss from people unsubscribing. Alongside Netflix, students were able to learn about AI from the perspective of startup companies, academics in the field, and other corporate partners using AI to change the way that they do business and interact with their customers. Further, audiences were able to learn about how AI can make their daily jobs easier from an internal process perspective, showing them that a future workplace with AI is a better and more comfortable one. These presentations showed audiences filled with students and people of every background that the future of AI is truly infinite and undoubtedly worthy of investment.
The growing AI talent gap
Beyond merely inspiring students to get into AI as a field of study, academia is currently being faced with another problem that runs the risk of limiting the growth of AI as a technology. Since AI is gaining popularity with many companies, many top professors and experts within the field are being recruited by big businesses at large salaries to work for them. While this is good for the experts, it is leaving a large knowledge gap because there simply are not enough teachers to educate the next generation of AI practitioners, data scientists, and ML experts. Some companies have recognized this issue and begun to pay professors and experts to work for the company while also maintaining their teaching schedules, which allows the education cycle to continue with a very delicate balancing act. This is an advantage for some companies because having teachers in their employ also allows them to have a direct connection to students who may have a bright future in the field.
The focus on artificial intelligence shows no signs of slowing down in the near future. As technologies begin to grow and adapt, more use cases will present themselves for artificial intelligence within companies and our daily lives, and this will likely continue to perpetuate the growth of this area over time. Since the possibilities and boundaries with artificial intelligence continue to grow, it appears that AI with touch every single industry. Continuing to make sure we have enough folks who are skilled in the right areas to continue to push AI forward will only become more important.