Scroll to top


How to change the world? Learning artificial intelligence

August 17th, 2017

Artificial intelligence could be as important to transforming the economy as electricity was 100 years ago. But for that to happen, the world will need a huge new workforce of people trained in using AI.

That’s the vision of Andrew Ng, a founder of the Google Brain deep learning project, and former head of AI at Baidu who announced a set of five interconnected online courses on the subject.

Participants in the “Deep Learning Specialization,” available only through Coursera, will be steeped in neural networks, backpropagation, convolutional networks, recurrent networks, computer vision, natural language processing, and more. They’ll get hands-on experience using the technology in healthcare, visual object recognition, music generation, language understanding, and other applications.

Today, if you want to learn deep learning, there are lots of people searching online, reading [dozens of] research papers, reading blog posts, and watching YouTube videos,” Ng said. “I admire that, but I want to give people that want to break into AI a clear path of how to get there.

Students who enroll will also be able to participate in applied deep learning projects to address real-world problems in healthcare, music generation and language understanding. Some of the lectures will include interviews with deep learning developers. Three of the five courses are launching today.

Today, the major breakthroughs in the field are coming from the world’s largest tech companies, which have in-house AI departments and are investing significantly in the field. As Ng sees it, getting to an AI-powered economy is going to take the work of much more than any one, or even several companies. It’s going to take huge numbers of newly trained experts.

I hope we can build an AI-powered future that provides everyone affordable healthcare, accessible education, inexpensive and convenient transportation, and a chance for meaningful work for every man and woman,” Ng said in his announcement, which is the first from his newly created company, “An AI-powered future that improves every person’s life.

Ng is aware that many people are still confused by AI, often getting bogged down in the different subspecialties, and lingo that can easily be misused. That’s led to popular projects like Andreessen Horowitz partner Frank Chen’s AI primers, which are 45-minute-long videos taking viewers through the basics of artificial intelligence.

Ng founded Coursera along with fellow Stanford computer science professor Daphne Koller. It offers a wide-ranging set of online classes geared toward giving anyone the ability to learn new technical specialties from top-tier educators without having to go to a major university. One of the first classes was in machine learning, and in the subsequent five years, Ng says, more than 1.5 million people have taken the course.

Ng’s new curriculum was built with the original Coursera machine learning course in mind. He had seen how graduates had done things like build a machine learning-powered coffee roaster, or helped a university figure out how to predict which students were most at risk of dropping out.

“The thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is building an AI-powered society,” Ng said. Obviously, he wants a whole lot of people to come along for the ride with him.

PH: Reuters