TL;DR: Recent progress in AI has tentatively shortened my expected timelines of human-level machine intelligence to something like 50% in the next 15 years. Conditional on that being a sensible timeline (feel free to disagree in the comments), how should that influence my career choice?
I am currently a master student in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Amsterdam with one more year to go (mainly doing my master's thesis). So far, my go-to plan was to apply for safety-relevant PhD positions, probably either in NN generalization or RL, and then try to become a research scientist in a safety-oriented org. Given the shorter timelines, I am now considering becoming an engineer instead since that seems to require much less upskilling time, compared to doing a PhD for 4-5 years. I think the answer to my question hinges upon
- my personal fit for engineering vs. research
- the marginal value of an engineer vs. researcher in the years directly preceding HLMI
- the marginal value of an engineer now (i.e. a year from now) vs. a researcher in 5-6 years.
- The reason I split these is that maybe the value changes significantly once HLMI is clearly on the horizon or already there in a number of relevant domains.
I feel like I enjoy research more than pure engineering, but it's not like I don't enjoy engineering at all. Engineering seems more competitive in terms of coding skills, which I might lack compared to the most skilled other applicants. However, that is something I could practice pretty straightforwardly.
How have other people thought about this question, and how would you judge the questions about marginal value of the two roles?