Coursera Co-Founder Launches Online AI School

Coursera Co-Founder Launches Online AI School

With the rapid advance of AI and machine learning technology, employers need talent with skills and knowledge in this field at a greater rate than university programs are able to churn them out. The imbalance of supply and demand has led to large, rich companies buying up all the AI startups and luring AI professors away from universities with much larger salaries. To address this issue and expand access to AI education, Stanford University professor and Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng has launched a new website,, whose courses “offer coders without an AI background training in how to use deep learning, the technique behind the current frenzy of investment in AI,” Wired’s Tom Simonite reports:

“This sounds naive, but I want us to build a new AI-powered society,” Ng tells WIRED. “The only way to build this is if there are hundreds of thousands of people with the skills to do things like improve the water supply for your city or help resource allocation in developing economies.” Ng’s new courses cost $49 a month and are offered through online-education startup Coursera, which he cofounded in 2012 and where he still sits on the board. …

With his new courses, Ng is offering a solution to a problem he helped create. His prominence comes from work on deep learning at Stanford and Google’s X Labs that helped prove machine learning could do transformational things for businesses. In a 2012 paper, he and coauthors described a system that learned to recognize cats in still images from YouTube without human help. Now there aren’t enough people with machine learning skills to go around.

Ng’s motivation to launch Deeplearning also stems from his sense that people who don’t understand how AI works are afraid of it, which he thinks we shouldn’t be, Daniel Terdiman adds at Fast Company:

On the question of whether AI poses a danger to humanity, Ng is confident that the beneficial outcomes will become clearer as the technology progresses. “There seems to be a negative correlation,” Ng says, “between how much someone knows AI and how afraid they are of it.”

In an interview with Will Knight at the MIT Technology Review, Ng explains that he’s not trying to raise a generation of AI experts, but rather to help prepare the workforce for a future in which AI is fundamental to everything we do:

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. 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. So the AI workforce today is so much smaller. …

I’ve sat down with CEOs of very large non-tech companies and we’ve brainstormed ideas for new AI products for their industries, but they don’t have anyone with the deep-learning skill set to build it. If you manage tens of thousands of people and you don’t have an AI group, what can you do? I know some of these CEOs intend to send their existing employees to take this deep-learning specialization.