'AI is the new electricity' and millions of people should learn it, expert says

Former Baidu AI expert Andrew Ng is launching a new Coursera course on deep learning to bring more AI experts into the world.

Former Baidu AI chief Andrew Ng is launching a new deep learning course on Coursera, in hopes of training millions of people on AI tools, the MIT Technology Review reported Tuesday. The course will be one of Ng's three main efforts with his new startup,

AI and its related technologies have quickly proliferated across industries, and could potentially come to impact many aspects of daily life. As such, Ng said, the world is desperate need of more AI practitioners.

"I don't think every person on the planet needs to know deep learning. But if AI is the new electricity, look at the number of electrical engineers and electricians there are," Ng told the Review. "There's a huge workforce that needs to be built up for society to figure out how to do all of the wonderful stuff around us today."

SEE: Special report: How to implement AI and machine learning (free PDF)

Tools like machine learning and deep learning aren't just for the big tech companies, Ng said. Most of the companies on the Fortune 500 will be able to create some sort of value with AI technologies in the future.

However, the traditional university, while increasing its focus on AI, isn't doing so fast enough to keep up with demand, Ng said. The tech industry is used to lifelong learning, as developers often have to learn new coding languages or frameworks, Ng told the Review. And part of the challenge of AI becoming ubiquitous will be training enough people, fast enough, to use it.

"I feel like there are so many good opportunities, and so few people with the skills that are needed to capture these opportunities," he said in the article.

Ng also noted in the Review's article that he has had conversations with leaders of non-tech corporations that need deep learning expertise, but don't have the talent to fill the gaps. He's hoping his course can provide that training.

However, Ng wasn't blind to the costs of such an effort either. AI will displace jobs, he said, and his work in training more practitioners will be a part of that problem. However, he said, with more education on the technology, and a societal shift towards AI, he hopes to be part of the solution as well.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Andrew Ng, former chief scientist of Baidu, is launching a Coursera course on deep learning to help train millions of people on AI tools.
  2. AI and related technologies will impact non-tech companies as well, and Ng wants to help fill that skills gap.
  3. Ng noted that AI will displace jobs, too, but he hopes to be part of the solution as well.

Also see

Image: iStockphoto/chombosan

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox