TC Disrupt: Andrew Ng Shares His Thoughts On Building An AI-Powered Society

Andrew Ng is probably best known for co-founding Coursera, the global online education platform that gives people access to university-level courses. Previously, he led AI teams at Google and Baidu.

After resigning from Baidu in March, where he served as Chief Scientist, Ng launched It’s still unclear what his new venture does exactly, aside from the fact that it has created deep learning courses and is currently hiring software engineers. In August, TechCrunch reported that Ng is raising a $150 million AI fund, which fall under the broader picture of Ng’s AI-focused endeavors.

Today on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, Ng shared his thoughts on how we can eventually achieve an AI-powered society, where AI tools truly benefit humans.

“AI is the new electricity,” Ng said, detailing how the rise of electricity has transformed transportation, communication, and agriculture. Likewise, Ng believes that AI will be able to revolutionize every industry imaginable. Ng calls these transformable industry “verticals,” areas like healthcare and transportation, which he is most excited about.

One example is Coursera using with machine learning to personalize education. By collecting data from learners, its ML team connects users to courses that will help them on their career paths.

When asked whether if he thinks startups stand a chance against big tech companies that have already made huge investments in AI, Ng gave a definite yes. In fact, he thinks that “no one company could do all the work that will enable society to use AI better.”

However, Ng warned startups against entering into verticals such as web search, where large companies already possess better data asset and learning algorithms. Instead, latecomers should find their own niche by repeating the virtuous cycle of building a product, gathering user data, and improving their product.

“There’s plenty of opportunities for [both] existing companies and small startups,” Ng observed.

Finally, Ng addressed some of the concerns surrounding lack of transparency in AI-decision making. He foresees that upcoming research that makes AI more explainable will be able to bridge the gap between developers and consumers, though it might be harder for some sectors than others.

iStockPhoto / monsitj

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