Coding our future robotic overlords pays well

Freelancers should dust off their AI and ML skills for fun and profit

Jane Elizabeth
© Shutterstock / Bas Nastassia

What’s the hottest skill a coder should know these days? It turns out, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are so in demand, even freelancers are getting in on the action.

Artificial intelligence’s long winter is over. We’re pretty excited to see new developments in this groundbreaking field. The resurgence of AI is nothing short of astounding. Unfortunately, because AI was so unpopular for so long, there’s a real shortage of developers with AI skills.

Upwork, a website that matches freelancers with the appropriate employers, has put out their latest survey of the fastest-growing job skills of Q1. The number one developer skill? Artificial intelligence.

Not quite a dark horse

It seems like AI has come out of left field to jump to the top of these rankings. After all, AI hadn’t even made it onto the past few top twenty lists. However, it’s not surprising to see this high demand for AI skills. After all, the biggest tech companies are desperate for AI and ML specialists.


Eagle-eyed watchers of tech have noticed for a while the boom in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Schools can barely churn out enough students to satisfy tech’s demands for this revived field. According to Wired, “the cost of acquiring a top AI researcher is comparable to the cost of acquiring an NFL quarterback”.

SEE MORE: Mastering the art of machine learning cooking

We’ve written before about how artificial intelligence and machine learning are some of the hottest skills to have in Silicon Valley these days. Machine learning specialists are some of the best paid employees in tech. Due to the shortage of codes with these skills, that money is flowing down to freelancers.

“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,” said Upwork in a statement.

“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,” Upwork continued. “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.”

AI skills are easier to get than you’d think

So, AI is the hottest thing a freelancer or a developer could have. Awesome. That doesn’t do you any good if you’re not solid on these skills.

Assuming you’re still at university, it can be as easy as taking a Comp Sci class on deep learning or neural networks. Many of us have already graduated, though. What then? There are fairly expensive programs available online touting their certification programs. However, there are other options available without enrolling in expensive programs. The internet is here to help.

We’ve gone over some of the open source options before here on JAXenter. Last week, I suggested that you check out some of these awesome courses on AI that are available for free. Here’s what I said:

My stance on the inevitable robot uprising is well known. (Here for it! Not letting them cook, though.) Artificial intelligence is more accessible than ever. Here are a few courses to get you started on this awesome journey.

CS 188 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence UC Berkeley

This course will introduce the basic ideas and techniques underlying the design of intelligent computer systems. A specific emphasis will be on the statistical and decision-theoretic modeling paradigm. By the end of this course, you will have built autonomous agents that efficiently make decisions in fully informed, partially observable and adversarial settings. Your agents will draw inferences in uncertain environments and optimize actions for arbitrary reward structures. Your machine learning algorithms will classify handwritten digits and photographs. The techniques you learn in this course apply to a wide variety of artificial intelligence problems and will serve as the foundation for further study in any application area you choose to pursue.

SEE MORE: Top 5 machine learning libraries for Java

CS 4700 Foundations of Artificial Intelligence Cornell University

This course will provide an introduction to computer vision, with topics including image formation, feature detection, motion estimation, image mosaics, 3D shape reconstruction, and object and face detection and recognition. Applications of these techniques include building 3D maps, creating virtual characters, organizing photo and video databases, human computer interaction, video surveillance, automatic vehicle navigation, and mobile computer vision. This is a project-based course, in which you will implement several computer vision algorithms throughout the semester.

6.868J The Society of Mind MIT

This course is an introduction, by Prof. Marvin Minsky, to the theory that tries to explain how minds are made from collections of simpler processes. It treats such aspects of thinking as vision, language, learning, reasoning, memory, consciousness, ideals, emotions, and personality. It incorporates ideas from psychology, artificial intelligence, and computer science to resolve theoretical issues such as wholes vs. parts, structural vs. functional descriptions, declarative vs. procedural representations, symbolic vs. connectionist models, and logical vs. common-sense theories of learning.


That should help you get started on your artificial intelligence journey. Just remember to keep to the Three Laws of Robotics and we’ll all survive the Singularity just fine.

Jane Elizabeth
Jane Elizabeth is an assistant editor for

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