Researchers in artificial intelligence can stand to make a ton of money. But this week, we actually know just how much some A.I. experts are being paid — and it’s a lot, even at a nonprofit.
OpenAI, a nonprofit research lab, paid its lead A.I. expert, Ilya Sutskever, more than $1.9 million in 2016, according to a recent public tax filing. Another researcher, Ian Goodfellow, made more than $800,000 that year, even though he was only hired in March, the New York Times reported.
As the publication points out, the figures are eye-opening and offer a bit of insight on how much A.I. researchers are being paid across the globe. Normally, this kind of data isn’t readily accessible. But since OpenAI is a nonprofit organization, it’s required by law to make these figures public.
And while OpenAI’s researchers are doing well for themselves, the NYT notes that the lab’s compensation might be “underselling” what researchers at other groups can make. Most other tech firms compensate with sizable stock options, but OpenAI can’t due to its status as a nonprofit.
Part of the reason why A.I. salaries have skyrocketed over the last few years is supply and demand. Put simply, there are just not enough people skilled enough to perform serious A.I. research to keep up with all the firms looking to hire them.
“If anything, demand for that talent is growing faster than the supply of new researchers, because A.I. is moving from early adopters to wider use,” Chris Nicholson, founder of A.I. startup Skymind, told the Times.
OpenAI was founded by Tesla and SpaceX head Elon Musk. The tech juggernaut hired several A.I. experts who had previously worked at Facebook and Google. While the nonprofit’s salary packages may border on the lower end, OpenAI may attract idealists. It makes much of its research public and it actively avoids developing platforms that could become “a danger,” the NYT reported.
The publication added that top A.I. specialists at major tech firms like Google and Facebook can expect salaries in the millions of dollars. Even A.I. researchers with no previous industry experience can net between $300,000 and $500,000 in salary and stock options.