No discussion in information technology today is complete without reference to artificial intelligence or AI, in quickspeak. Needless to say, experts in AI are in great demand. Among them, Andrew Ng is often referred to as a go-to guru on AI. Andrew, wears several hats. He is the co-founder of Coursera, which offers online courses. He is also an adjunct professor at the Stanford University and was formerly the head of Baidu AI Group, and Google Brain. He calls AI, the new electricity. In response to an email from Business Today, he explains why and shares his thoughts on what companies need to do. Excerpts:
Q. A lot of companies today talk of AI as the letters of the English alphabet that you need to use to stay relevant. But is there a gap in the way it is being absorbed as a skill?
A. AI is the new electricity. I can hardly imagine an industry which is not going to be transformed by AI. A clear path to an AI-powered society includes wide adoption of AI to drive industrial and technological endeavors.
We are in early phases of AI-led transformation. The nature of jobs is changing and a lot of existing jobs will be impacted -like those who work in call centers, as drivers, radiologists etc. On the other hand, there are many new jobs that companies are struggling to fill. Proactive and intentional approach to workforce transformation is key to managing through this phase of accelerated change.
Q. What challenges do you see for companies that want to transform using AI?
A. The biggest challenge is the scarce AI talent. Even if the companies have a clear vision and roadmap for how they want to leverage AI to transform their product and services, they need a strong talent base to execute. And companies can't recruit their way out of it, they will need to upskill their existing talent base on AI. I would also recommend creating a dedicated AI group within the company as that in my experience accelerates development and adoption of AI thinking throughout the company.
Q. How can Coursera help in this? What new is there in the works on this at Coursera?
A. With Coursera, we are trying to help thousands learn AI and, in turn, transform their companies. My own Machine Learning course has been one of the most popular globally with over 1.9 million enrolments, including more than 300k who took the course in India. The recently launched Deep Learning specialization has also seen a tremendous response.