The development of machines that think and act like humans is a pressing priority for many of the world’s biggest companies. According to Paysa, firms are now paying more than $650 million in annual salaries to secure the best talent in artificial intelligence (AI), which is used to power everything from virtual personal assistants to video games, self-driving cars, purchase predictions, customer support and security surveillance.

Mark Cuban recently said Twitter's AI push was what drew him to the stock. For investors looking to follow the AI, a look at who is spending the most on talent is one of the indicators used to determine which firms are serious about the technology. (See also: Twitter and Mark Cuban: Where's the AI?)

Career planning platform Paysa says that the top 20 investors in AI staff are spending an average of $33.3 million to secure the best employees. However, as the table below shows, net salary outlays vary considerably.

Top AI Recruiters

Leading the list by quite some margin is Amazon (AMZN), which forked out just shy of $228 million with some 1,178 AI jobs posted, on its efforts to become a market leader in the rapidly growing sector. In a recent interview with GeekWire, the company’s CEO Jeff Bezos justified this hefty investment, claiming that AI has the potential to “empower and improve” every business and government organization in the world. 

Other big spenders are Alphabet’s Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT). Like Bezos, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai has stressed multiple times the importance of developing AI technology, which already features in a number of the internet giant’s products, including its personal assistant, photo tool and identification software. (See also: Google CEO Pichai's Compensation Doubled in 2016.)

Microsoft, too, has made big strides in its use of machine learning to improve user experiences. Among other things, AI has been developed by the company to bolster its cloud computing unit and smart assistant Cortana. (See also: Alphabet, Microsoft Earnings Highlight Focus on AI, Products.)

According to Paysa, while many of the advertised AI jobs require a Ph.D or master’s degree, plenty are also open to candidates without further education qualifications. Years of experience in the field isn’t necessarily a must either. Interestingly, Paysa notes, "the majority of the positions (36 percent) are at companies that have been around 20 years or more while 21 percent of today’s open AI jobs can be found at companies that are 10 to 20-years-old. Only six percent of the open positions are at start-ups or companies that have been around five years or less."

“This latest research reveals that AI and machine learning skills are in such high demand that companies across the country at every funding stage are weighing the skills and track records of individuals even more heavily than years of experience or their degree as they staff up their development teams,” said Chris Bolte, CEO of Paysa.


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