Tech job layoffs fuel AI recruitment drive
- AI jobs replace other tech specialisms.
- Layoffs part of restructured workforces.
- Big tech goes all-in on LLMs and chatbots.
Technology and tech-first companies around the world are continuing to lay off staff. According to Layoffs.fyi, 93 companies have let nearly 25,000 employees go in the first month of 2024.
Big-name technology companies cutting numbers include SAP (8,000), Salesforce (700), Paytm (1,000), and Spotify (1,500), among hundreds of others. CNBC has reported that big tech is restructuring its workforces to further their designs on the AI market, and using the exercises to lay off workers from less profitable ventures.
Despite many thousands of layoffs in tech, AI and ML are massive growth sectors in the technology industry at present as companies race to capitalize on the public’s seemingly undimmed enthusiasm for smart chatbots, refined search, and automated data mining.
Household names Apple and Nvidia both have multiple live advertisements for suitably qualified machine learning experts, with good candidates offered salaries well into six figures. For recent graduates with even a smattering of data science in their undergraduate portfolio, it’s a great time to enter the job market. For more seasoned professionals well-versed in Python, R, data science, and industry-standard tools like TensorFlow, it’s a buyer’s market.
Perhaps the move most indicative of the current state of play in the technology space is Meta’s restructuring. Here, AI jobs replace other roles in what’s becoming an oft-repeated trope. The company has cut its Metaverse function in terms of funding and people, and instead is plowing saved resources into AI-focused projects. Layoffs in specifically targeted areas like AR/VR come alongside active recruitment of new AI specialists. This suggests a hurry to get qualified personnel on board and up and running quickly: if the pace of progress were slower, it might have deployed resources to cross-train staff already on its books.
Unfortunately for those confronted with cardboard boxes containing the contents of their desks, the company is pursuing the quicker burn-down-and-start-again approach to restructuring.
Pruning in other areas
Google has reduced its headcount in areas like Fitbit and Google Assistant in a series of cuts that began last year, following the AI-before-all-else mindset that’s gripped the industry. According to a leaked memo seen by The Verge, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that Alphabet, Google’s parent company, was “removing layers to simplify execution and drive velocity in some areas.” Layer removal, in this case, amounted to 12,000 redundancies, and velocity can be translated from corporate-speak into English as ‘profits.’
Scaremongers and reactionaries in all parts of the media are fond of stating that ‘AI will take our jobs.’ Tangentially, at least, they are partly correct; AI is taking jobs but taking them in areas of technology companies not directly related to AI.
Meanwhile, the practical use of AI in organizations tends to be centered around creating greater efficiency and faster throughput of work rather than replacing human labor. Software developers using AI, for example, can typically reduce the amount of time they spend researching knotty coding problems at sites like StackOverflow and find answers from LLMs faster, either through querying chatbots for better web search results or directly using plugin tools like Copilot or CodeWhisperer.
AI jobs replace game developers
In the computer game sector, Microsoft and Riot Games are ridding themselves of 8% and 11% of their gaming staff respectively, with Microsoft’s move as a result of consolidation in the wake of its $69bn purchase of Blizzard.
As the games industry contracts its outlays, Amazon’s Twitch service, beloved by gamers and de facto host of live gaming streams, is to lose 500 staff. Elsewhere in the Amazon empire, Audible, the audiobook subscription service, is also set to lose 5% of its workforce. Audible CEO Bob Carrigan said the company faces an “increasingly challenging landscape.”
22 February 2024
21 February 2024
21 February 2024