Andrew Ng — AI Apostle: The 2017 IA 25

The Stanford prof and former Baidu exec sees a big future in AI

Andrew Ng is not a financial advisor. He doesn’t work for a broker-dealer, custodian or technology provider.

His work will, however, have a profound effect on advisors as tech firms integrate artificial intelligence to streamline their processes. Ng is an adjunct professor at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab. Until recently, he was chief scientist at Baidu, the Beijing-based internet search company, where he led the company’s AI group.

“Just as electricity transformed many industries roughly 100 years ago, AI will also now change nearly every major industry — health care, transportation, entertainment, manufacturing  —  enriching the lives of countless people. I am more excited than ever about where AI can take us,” Ng wrote in a blog post announcing his resignation from Baidu in late March.

He told MIT Technology Review in a March 22 interview that he was still exploring his next steps and wanted to look at “other opportunities to use AI to help people.”

“I think AI offers a lot of opportunities, not just at big companies like Baidu but for entrepreneurs, and for advancing basic research,” Ng told the publication.

At Stanford, Ng teaches machine learning. He also developed Stanford’s first free online learning platform. That effort led to the massive open online courses (MOOC) platform Coursera, which Ng founded with Daphne Koller. Ng is Coursera’s co-chair with Koller and served as co-CEO of Coursera until 2014.

“Fintech is well on its way to being totally transformed by AI,” he said at the Stanford MSx Future Forum in January.

(Related: Fintech Isn’t Taking Over the Advisory Business … Yet)

The bulk of economic value being driven by AI is in supervised learning tools, Ng said, which is a “relatively simple A-to-B input-to-response mapping.” Email spam filters are an example of supervised learning tools.

Ng also founded and led the Google Brain project in 2011 and 2012, developing an algorithm that learned to identify pictures of cats from unlabeled data.

Ng envisions a future in which people can speak naturally with their computers and health care robots can determine what patients need.

“The industrial revolution freed humanity from much repetitive physical drudgery; I now want AI to free humanity from repetitive mental drudgery,” he wrote.

--- Read Frontrunners: The 2017 IA 25 on ThinkAdvisor.

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