Answering “Yes” to Hard Questions About the SKills Gap, and The Future of Work

A recent article from the University of California’s Chief Innovation Officer, about the impact of disruptive technologies on jobs and skills, poses critical questions about how we connect learning to jobs—today, and in the future.

Future of Work

Everyone from politicians to policy makers, utopianists to university professors, innovators to investors, is talking about the future of work, the fourth industrial revolution, and the automation age. It’s hard to avoid these topics, and if you’re between the ages of, say, 16 and 80, you probably shouldn’t avoid them.

Our work lives are changing, and depending on how we manage the transition, this could either be a new golden age, or a serious shock to the system.

At Udacity, we’re engaged in helping lifelong learners across the globe empower themselves through learning, in order to build rewarding lives and careers. As such, we’re acutely aware of the looming changes—the theories around how it’s going to happen, and what it’s all going to mean.

We engage every day with innovators, educators, students, employees and thought leaders, to better understand what education needs to do, be, and represent as we move forward. We work with recruiters, hiring managers, entrepreneurs, and executives, to better forecast what skills will be needed, where the demand will be, and what career advancement will look like in the days, years, and decades to come. We collaborate with individuals, startups, and global corporations, to better understand how and where the work of the future will happen. In short, we spend a vast amount of time learning from anyone and everyone about what the future holds, and how we can best prepare our students to succeed.

We listen, we talk, we watch, we ask, and we read.

One article that recently impressed us for its ambitious scope, rich degree of insight, and clear-eyed understanding of where the world is heading, is a post by Christine Gulbranson, the Chief Innovation Officer for the University of California System. The article is entitled The Future of Work: The Impact of Disruptive Technologies on Jobs and Skills. Here is a sample of the wisdom Gulbranson shares in this provocative and timely piece:

“It’s not difficult to make some basic calculations about what skill sets will be needed in the future: automate predictable manual labor jobs and the skills demanded for such jobs decreases. More automated factories will increase the demand for hard skills in mechanical engineering, software architecture, coding, algorithms, data structures, data analysis/data science, and machine architecture/design. Increasing gene editing and robotic surgery will increase the demand for software engineers and mechanical engineers who also have medical skills. Move to IoT cities and policy makers and lawyers will need to understand coding, software architecture, economics, and more, on top of what they’re expected to know today.

Clearly with a rise of connected devices and infrastructure, machines, AI, spatial computing, blockchain, and autonomous vehicles, there comes an increase in demand for STEAM skills. However, sitting on top of hard skills is a deep and strong layer for cognitive, analytical, and soft skills. Employers won’t be looking for a degree that signifies what a candidate knows: they will be looking for someone who can learn, combine and analyze, problem-solve, create, and adjust.”

It’s that last sentence that especially resonated with us, because this echoes exactly what we hear directly from employers every single day. The pace of modern business and the rapid advance of technology have significantly altered the hiring landscape in such a way that characteristics such as agility, growth mindset, adaptability, creativity, and grit have emerged as the most important factors in predicting a successful hire.

That’s not to say that acquired skills don’t matter—they do!—but the ability to learn new skills and apply them has become just as important as the skills you already possess.

This is also not to say that educational pedigree doesn’t have a place any longer—it does—but what constitutes credible pedigree is changing rapidly. As we’ve learned in the years since first launching our Nanodegree programs, a Nanodegree credential fulfills a dual role. In addition to affirming your skills acquisition, earning a Nanodegree credential stands as evidence that you are a self-motivated problem-solver who possesses grit and determination.

Gulbranson’s article concludes on a sobering note of caution:

“Finally, as we already know today, if education can’t keep up with changing industry, then the skills gap will hinder technological advancement and adoption.”

She goes on to ask some powerful questions, such as:

  • Are students learning how to learn, handle high complexity, and be flexible?
  • Are they learning how to make the invisible visible, and how to make good decisions using data and analysis?
  • Are there solutions that don’t cost an arm and a leg and last four years when the industry needs a software engineer who is also a psychologist to create a product that detects the mood of drivers and auto-shuts off the car appropriately?

We’re proud to be part of a new generation of learning providers offering opportunities that represent a “yes” answer to all the above, and we’re grateful to innovators like Christine Gulbranson who are out there asking the hard questions, and providing the right answers.

Through your commitment to lifelong learning at your organization, you are helping build rewarding careers for employees, while creating an environment for innovation.

~

Visit udacity.com/enterprise to discover how we can help your organization successfully navigate workforce transformation!

Future Focused: Udacity and AT&T Join Forces to Train Workers for the Jobs of Tomorrow

AT&T is in the midst of one of the most significant transformations in its more than 140-year-old history, and their work with Udacity enables both the upskilling of its existing workforce, and the development of vital new talent pipelines.

 

Across every sector of the global economy, we are seeing profound signs of transformation as the pace of technological innovation continues to accelerate. From tiny startups to massive corporations, organizations are rethinking the future of work, and what it will require in the way of new approaches to learning, training and hiring.

The Future of Work

As a provider of learning experiences designed explicitly to support career advancement in the digital economy, Udacity sits at the critical junction where employer needs meet employee aspirations. We connect learning to jobs in new and vital ways. Our ongoing collaboration with AT&T offers a powerful example of what is possible when industry and education come together to support digital transformation.

New Skills for a New Century

AT&T is in the midst of one of the most significant transformations in its more than 140-year old history. Theirs is an industry with constantly changing expectations, and customers that demand progress and innovation. The key to success in this environment is employee commitment to continuous learning, powering the company to succeed.

To keep pace, we worked to create a culture of continuous learning. We expect that in the future, the job market will increasingly place a premium on ongoing worker knowledge and training. Accordingly, the demand for us all to be lifelong learners will only intensify. On-demand, mobile, swift, specific skills-based learning is the future.” —John G. Palmer, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, AT&T

AT&T recognized they needed a workforce with more than just relevant hard skills—they needed continuous learners that were focused, curious, and driven to master the very latest tools and technologies. They also realized their transformation efforts would require a two-pronged approach: they would need to upskill their existing workforce, while simultaneously developing new talent pipelines that would deliver exceptional candidates. To help accomplish this, AT&T joined with Udacity in 2014 to co-create our first Nanodegree programs, which was ultimately integral to our by-industry, for-industry approach to education and training.

Today, AT&T spends upwards of $200 million a year on their flagship internal training curriculum, known as T University. This effort enables their existing employees to take hands-on courses in subjects like data science and machine learning. The company also provides more than $24 million in tuition aid annually to enable their employees to engage in learning outside the company. More than 2,000 AT&T employees have completed Nanodegree programs.

Internship opportunities and new talent pipelines

Parallel to these internal upskilling and reskilling initiatives, a number of Udacity graduates from outside the company have been recruited and hired through AT&T’s Technology Development Program (TDP), which was developed to bring software development interns into the organization, and provide them the opportunity to learn, work, and earn full-time roles.

“We’ve put Udacity graduates in many different roles such as full-stack development, front-end, back-end, & iOS development; they’ve succeeded in all of these places … Whether those Nanodegree graduates have formal STEM education or not, Udacity has prepared them for their internship, and our colleagues in other parts of the business have been pleased with the results.” —Teresa Ostapower, Senior Vice President, Technology Transformation, AT&T

Swati Lingaraj Kamtar is an Associate Applications Developer at AT&T. She was hired through the TDP internship program, after having completed Udacity’s Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree program. She’s a perfect example of how genuinely committed to their employees—and to continuous learning—AT&T really is; she’s already enrolled in a new Nanodegree program, with the full support and encouragement of her supervisor at AT&T.

“Our Udacity hires come from varying backgrounds and thus bring different perspectives that we appreciate. At AT&T, we value teamwork and the idea that a small group of talented people is more innovative than a single person. Adding those different life experiences and skills into our teams is valuable as we drive forward as a company.” —Teresa Ostapower

Robert Anderson has been an AT&T employee for two years now. He too came to the company via Udacity and the TDP internship program. It nearly didn’t happen for Robert. The first time he became aware of the opportunity, he didn’t apply for the internship. He didn’t believe he was qualified. He’d come to programming late in life, and only after spending years in other fields. He was barely three months into a Udacity Nanodegree program, and in his own words, he was actually “terrified.” But shortly after he graduated, he had another opportunity to apply for an internship, and this time, he took it. He not only landed an internship, he then earned a full-time role. Like Swati, he also returned to Udacity for more learning.

To hear Robert describe getting offered the full-time role, and to experience his passion for learning is to witness firsthand the true depth of AT&T’s commitment, and the true value of a Udacity education:

“I wanted to stay with AT&T, and for them to give me the opportunity; it was an amazing feeling. It was kind of like fireworks going off; like, I did it, I’m actually legitimate in the field, I actually have the skill set. It was a great moment. The more you learn, the more you get out of life. You’re increasing your awareness and your understanding of what’s going on, you’re leveling up. I can’t think of a better endeavor than to invest in yourself and to be the best you can be.”

A culture of continuous learning

Udacity was founded to offer innovative new learning experiences to individuals seeking to master the most important, the most-cutting edge, and the most valuable 21st century skills. As our work with AT&T makes clear, these learners—curious, independent and tenacious,—are earning their places in tomorrow’s workforce, today.

“AT&T has a long-standing history of innovation, and of driving technological advancements that literally change people’s lives. To do that, we have to have employees who are innovative, who are curious, and who are constantly pushing the bounds of what’s next.” —Jenifer Robertson, President – Field Operations, AT&T

The future of work is about creating a culture of continuous learning. AT&T knows this firsthand, as the success of their transformation efforts demonstrates. We are honored to be a part of these efforts, and thrilled to see our graduates joining an organization like AT&T, and making important contributions to their ongoing success.

 

To learn how Udacity for Enterprise is enabling AT&T’s digital transformation, join us for an upcoming Intro to Udacity webinar (register here) or visit us at www.udacity.com/enterprise.

Workforce Transformation: What It Means to Your Organization & Employees

Bridge the #AI skills gap

As companies continue to try to innovate, digitize and transform their operations, the demand for technology talent has never been higher. Training talent for the future and building a stronger workforce, in many cases, requires traditional businesses to think and act more like a nimble startup. Companies today need to reskill the workforce, inject new talent, and enable them a new way of working. Without skilled staff, there can be no digital transformation.

The reality is business has transformed and evident all around us including small changes in everything from how food is made and delivered, to how financial transactions are conducted, to how products are made, operated, and sold result in fundamental changes to how we live and work. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies are poised for a monumental impact.

The New York Times estimates that there are only 10,000 people in the world right now with “the education, experience and talent needed” to develop the AI technologies that businesses are betting on to create a host of new economic opportunities. Speculative figures indicate that there are around 300,000 AI practitioners globally, but millions more roles available for people with these qualifications.

The critical issue for companies lies in the fact that AI expertise comes at a price—meaning that only those organizations with the necessary resources and clout are able to attract machine learning talent. This is reflected in booming annual salaries and startling industry recruitment efforts. There is still a pronounced shortage of AI talent. In fact, it is getting worse as more and more enterprises form their own AI groups and make AI part of their corporate strategy,” argues Gary Kazantsev, Bloomberg’s Head of Machine Learning. It’s clear that recruiting one or two AI experts—a challenge in itself—won’t be enough to make the technology an actionable success in 2018.

While skills and training initiatives play catch-up, ballooning salaries, scarce talent, and an aggressively competitive hiring landscape means that the race is already on between those who stand to gain the most from AI through the ability to adopt early on, and those who will be trailing behind in their dust. This is what the AI skills gap looks like—and right now, it’s a gap that is only widening. The growing disparity between the hiring power of companies and the present scarcity of AI talent has big implications, not only for determining the winners and losers of the AI revolution, but for the future of the workforce itself. This is no longer a ‘simple’ question of technology, but of skills, personnel, and strategy. As AI technologies become a reality, companies and their workforce must keep up—and they must do so quickly.

Read our whitepaper and find out how your company can bridge the AI talent gap. Download here.

Audi Trains Its Employees For The Future With Udacity

Audi recently published a blog post discussing its online learning initiative and partnership with Udacity

Artificial intelligence (AI) promises to revolutionize the automotive industry and, more importantly, the automobile. It’s no surprise that Audi has invested in its employee “data camp” training focused on big data and artificial intelligence. Intelligent robots, digital mobility services, and autonomous cars will all rely on these skills, so Audi is staying one step ahead. The company has partnered with Udacity to help accelerate its transformation into a digital car company.

You can find the complete post here in German.

Shaping the Future of Your Workforce

The Future of Work

Future of Work

Today’s businesses are undergoing a digital transformation. The Internet of Things (IoT) is making smart homes, smart factories, and smart cities possible. Autonomous vehicles are changing the transportation industry. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are enabling predictive approaches to decision making and driving business insights.

This digital transformation that is sweeping industries by storm would not be possible without data. Data is the enabler of new technologies and solutions. Data is where important and actionable business insights are derived. In a recent Udacity webinar titled “Shaping the Future of the Workforce,” the discussion centered on how Artificial and data science are the building blocks of digital transformation and there is a massive skills gap and substantial competition for talent surrounding those skill sets.

Regardless of the industry, companies are struggling to find qualified and experienced talent to not only help make sense of all the data but to use the data to be competitive. “How is your company going to deal with all this new information – as quick as your competition? There are key data job openings you need to fill and time is not on your side,” said Andrew Cartwright, Enterprise Sales Lead at Udacity.

Breakthroughs in machine learning, supported by the huge explosion of data are fueling the rapid rate of growth and development of artificial intelligence (AI) regardless of the industry. AI is at the forefront of a tidal wave of disruption. Employees today not only lack the right set of skills, but the ones they currently have are becoming obsolete over time. And, companies want to integrate AI strategies, but the don’t have the right talent with the right skills. In fact, there are less than 10,000 professionals in the world with the skills necessary to tackle AI. “Yet, we know the talent need for AI is over one million and we currently have over 100,000 students studying AI related fields. So, one of the biggest roadblocks in the active adoption of AI across industries is the sheer scarcity of appropriately skilled professionals,” Andrew Cartwright reiterated.

In order for organizations to bridge the talent gap the webinar stressed four key areas:

  1. establish continuous workforce training,
  2. derive proficiency in real-world skills beyond videos and online tests,
  3. establish ongoing workforce assessment and calibration,
  4. generate access to top-tier talent pool, internal and external

Academic institutions, companies, and online education providers are combining their efforts to find and foster talent. Organizations can enrich their staff through internal training, while at the same time creating the right conditions to accumulate and retain new talent.

The concept of lifelong learning is accordingly transforming from a discretionary aspiration to a career necessity. No longer is it a supplemental luxury to learn new skills, and no longer is learning new skills something you do only when you’re pursuing a significant career change. Being relevant, competitive, and in-demand in today’s fast-moving world requires an ongoing commitment to lifelong learning regardless of your role or career path.

At Udacity, we are committed to very similar objectives and strategies. Our industry partnerships are critical to the success of our approach, both in terms of establishing “a true 21st century curriculum,” and for developing a “clearer view on future skills and employee needs.” Our emphasis on learn-by-doing is fueled by our desire to help see every employee we teach be in-demand.

To watch the replay of the webinar, please go here. To learn more about our Enterprise offerings, you can visit: https://www.udacity.com/enterprise

 

The Talent Right In Front of You

When you invest in the education of your employees, you give your company the gift of a long-term solution to your talent needs

(Originally posted on blog.udacity.com. Written by Christopher Watkins)

The following quote has been variously attributed to everyone from Lao Tzu to Maimonides to Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie:

“Give someone a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.”

Given its ubiquity throughout modern history, it’s clearly a resonant message, and part of its appeal has to do with its broad applicability—it’s germane to so many different use cases.

The quote is generally interpreted as a lesson about self-sufficiency, but it’s also sage advice when thinking about short-term “band-aids” vs. long-term solutions. Why solve something for a day, only to have the same problem again tomorrow? Why not embrace a long-term solution that eliminates the problem once and for all?

Hiring managers and recruiters confront this issue every day. After all, hiring is essentially an act of problem-solving—a company has a need, and the right hiring decision will solve for it. But what IS the right hiring decision? If you’re a company in need of talent, the solution is often right in front of you!

Let’s take the example of a company website.

Company X is a small company. They have a website, but it’s not very good, and it’s becoming a problem. They need a new site, but no one internally has the skills to do the work. What should Company X do? One solution is to hire someone from outside their organization to do the work. In theory, this makes sense, because professionals will know what to do, and how to do it. The challenges with this approach, however, are multi-fold. One obvious issue, is that there’s no real way to know whether the outside entity will do a good job. But the bigger question is, how can you know whether they’ll “get” you? A website isn’t just functional. It’s a symbol of brand identity. It communicates values as much as it provides services. So you want to work with someone who understands who you are as a company. Finding an outside entity that is both reliable, and that understands your brand, is difficult, and even if you DO find someone, they’re not yours for keeps. They do the work, then they’re off to the next client.

Hiring an outside entity often results in a “fed for a day” solution. If all goes well, you’ll get your new site, but as your company expands and evolves, you’ll be hungry again soon.

So what’s the alternative?

If you’re in a Company X kind of a situation, take a moment to look around you. What do you see? Chances are, what you see are dedicated, reliable, hardworking individuals who are committed to your company, and who most definitely “get” you. But at first glance, you might not be seeing the people who can build your new site.

Or are you?

Here at Udacity, we think you are! We think there are people at your company right now, who are just a Nanodegree program away from giving you exactly what you need. Don’t believe us? Poll your employees today. Find out whether someone at your company harbors an interest in web development. Chances are, there’s someone who’d jump at this kind of opportunity.

So, here’s a suggestion for companies in need of talent. Instead of investing in a one-time, short-term approach, invest in a Nanodegree program on behalf of one or more of your employees instead, and give your company the gift of a long-term solution to your talent needs.

Employees, this is an action item for you as well. If you’ve got a passion for something, and you think pursuing your passion can help your company, speak up! That’s what Kat Halo did. Her company hired someone else to do their marketing, but Kat knew she could do a better job. She took it upon herself to learn digital marketing with Udacity, and now, she’s doing marketing for her company!

There are a great many tangible benefits to hiring from within. A recent CareerBuilder article affirms that you’ll save money and see better performance, and Adam Foroughi, writing for Entrepreneur, notes the following:

  1. Motivated employees work harder.
  2. Opportunity, happy people = higher retention.
  3. Internal hires adapt better to new roles.

And finally, as noted in a recent article from Inc., “Wharton research shows that external hires cost18 to 20 percent more than those  promoted from within.”

In a world marked by rapid technological advancement, more and more companies all across the hiring landscape are embracing digital transformation initiatives, and this is leading them to look anew at the talent within their own ranks. At Udacity, our Enterprise team works directly with hundreds of different companies who are investing in their employees by proactively offering opportunities to reskill and upskill through our Nanodegree programs. If you’re not yet investing in the talent you already have, now’s a really good time to consider doing so!

Let’s now return to our quote:

“Give someone a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.”

The key lesson here lies in the distinction between “a day” and “a lifetime.” As a company, when it comes to making hiring decisions, you want to invest in a long-term solution that works for the long term, and that’s what investing in the development of existing employees is all about. When you need talent, you often need look no further than the people right in front of you.

Enabling companies to bridge the Artificial Intelligence gap with Nanodegree programs

Emerging areas, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, require special skill sets in high demand. Beyond traditional four-year degrees and time-intensive training programs, the alternative paths to developing those skills are limited. The learning required is not something that can be accomplished through a Netflix or YouTube-style exploration of a catalog of videos. Training in machine learning or AI requires deeper, more structured learning and commitment.

As AI moves beyond proof-of-concept and sandbox implementation, companies are looking to recruit top machine learning talent, cultivate AI skills across their workforce, and begin to use this amazing set of technologies for incredible outcomes. There’s just one problem. There’s still not enough AI experts out there to make this a reality – and a huge AI skills gap is opening up as a result. Continue reading “Enabling companies to bridge the Artificial Intelligence gap with Nanodegree programs”

Udacity Artificial Intelligence and Data Industry Advisory Board

Udacity Artificial Intelligence and Data Industry Advisory Board

AI Advisory Board

As we look forward into a future we know will be shaped by the transformational impact of artificial intelligence and data technologies, we can clearly see the birth of a new knowledge ecosystem within which education, industry, and technology form a powerful partnership. That these three arenas will be interrelated goes without saying, but how they inform one another, and how these relationships take shape and evolve, remain open questions.

At Udacity, we recognize the singular role we occupy, existing as we do at the crossroads where education, industry, and technology meet. We are a learning provider that teaches AI and data skills, in partnership with industry, and as such, we see a unique opportunity—and feel a special obligation—to both facilitate and contribute to the global conversation around critical issues we face as we move into our AI and data-powered future.

We are very excited to have recently formed an Artificial Intelligence and Data Industry Advisory Board with the expressed goal of bringing together leading experts in the field to consider the opportunities that lay ahead, to address the challenges we face, and to answer the questions we must answer.

We believe that through combining experiences and skills, sharing insights and ideas, and producing solutions and strategies, we can lay out a plan for the future that is beneficial to all—a plan that nurtures and supports emerging generations of learners to master artificial intelligence and data skills, encourages and incentivizes industry to adopt beneficial AI and data practices, and guarantees a pipeline of highly skilled individuals who are committed to social good ideals, and the ethical adoption and implementation of transformational technologies.

Among the experts who have joined our board is Armen Pischdotchian, the Academic Tech Mentor at IBM. In his role, he mentors university faculty and students, and conducts enablement sessions—both in and outside of the company—pertaining to the IBM Watson Solution offerings. Here is Armen on why he wanted to be a part of the board:

“I strongly believe that the Advisory board, at its core, is addressing a gap that needs to be erased, and that is the space between industry and education. Udacity has the unique pedigree of listening to the needs of tech giants and startups and asking the question, what does your candidate need to be proficient so the firm will succeed?”

Armen is joined by an incredible roster of individuals who come to us from leading organizations such as Amazon, Google, NVIDIA, and more. It is with both gratitude and excitement that we introduce the inaugural members of the Udacity Artificial Intelligence and Data Industry Advisory Board:

  • Armen Pischdotchian, Academic Tech Mentor, IBM
  • Brad Klingenberg, VP of Data Science, Stitch Fix
  • Bryan Catanzaro, VP of Applied Deep Learning Research, NVIDIA
  • Cyrus Vahid, Principal Deep Learning Solutions Architect, Amazon
  • Dan Becker, Head of Kaggle Learn
  • Derek Steer, CEO, Mode
  • Jeff Feng, Product Lead, Data, Airbnb
  • Joe Spisak, Product Manager – Artificial Intelligence at Facebook
  • Jon Francis, VP of Customer Marketing Analytics & Optimization, Starbucks
  • Josh Gordon, Developer Advocate for TensorFlow, Google
  • Mike Tamir, Head of Data Science Uber ATG & Data Science Faculty member at University of California at Berkeley
  • Warren Barkley, GM, AI and Research, Microsoft

While each of these individuals brings to the board a wholly unique set of experiences and insights, they are united by a shared passion for learning, and for building a better future through the beneficial use of transformational technologies.

Our mission is to provide companies and their employees with meaningful opportunities to master valuable and in-demand skills. Jeff Feng is the Product Lead for Data at Airbnb, where he leads a team building machine learning infrastructure, data infrastructure, data visualization tools, and their experimentation platform. Here is Jeff on the passion that drives his participation:

“Shaping how people and machines make decisions with data is one of the most critical skills needed in the workforce over the next decade. Thus, providing learners with the practical knowledge needed to work with data is an area I am hugely passionate about.”

We look very forward to sharing more updates about the work of the board, and to furthering our engagement with the important issues and incredible opportunities before us. As we advance our efforts, we are thankful above all else to our board members for their spirit of generosity and goodwill, and for their commitment to the true ideals of education. Josh Gordon, Developer Advocate at Google, put it both perfectly and simply when he stated the following:

“Good teachers are hard to find. I’m grateful for those who helped me out over the years, and it’s always been important to me to give back.”

We are grateful to the members of the advisory board, and we are excited to transfer insights gleaned from their leadership to you, our students, for it is who are the emerging leaders that will define the future we are eagerly building towards.

For more information about how Udacity for Enterprise is helping companies transform their workforce, click here.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the world’s most exciting frontier for knowledge and technology. Everywhere you look, people are talking about intelligent machines improving our lives. For all of the excitement, many of the concepts and applications are still highly technical, and can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the basics of AI. If you, your company and your employees have questions, you certainly aren’t alone!

Read on to learn answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about AI.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

This is an important first question; here are key definitions everyone should know:

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is a branch of computer science focused on building computers and machines that can simulate intelligent behavior. Artificial Intelligence systems are able to perform tasks traditionally associated with human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translating languages.

Algorithms

An algorithm is a series of mathematical instructions created for a machine to follow. Think of it as simple step-by-step instructions: do A, then B, then C. In AI, programmers create algorithms that tell a computer to look at data, identify a problem, and learn from its attempts to solve the problem.

Machine Learning

Machine learning is one of many algorithms used in AI. The machine learning field is concerned with designing programs that learn to make predictions from data, alone, without requiring assistance from a programmer. These algorithms are used in applications such as music recommendations, spam filtering, and fraud detection.

Deep Learning

Deep learning is built on neural networks, a kind of machine learning model structured in a way that resembles neurons in a human brain. In a neural network, artificial neurons are arranged in interconnected layers. There is an input layer to receive data from the outside world, and there is an output layer which dictates how the system will respond to the information. Between these two layers, there are additional “hidden” layers of neurons, which process data by putting a numerical weight on the information they receive from the preceding layer, and passing this information to the next layer in the network. A neural network can solve very complex problems because of the huge quantity of neurons working together. Deep learning gets its name from “deep” neural networks, with dozens or even hundreds of hidden layers. These networks are powering the AI revolution with state-of-the-art object detection, machine translation, and audio synthesis.

Natural Language Processing

Natural language processing is how we get computers to understand, process, and manipulate human language. To achieve this, a computer needs to be able to “understand” a huge amount of information—from grammar rules and syntax, to different colloquialisms and accents. In a speech recognition system, for instance, human voice input becomes audio data, which then gets converted to text data, a difficult process in itself. This text data can then be used in an “intelligent” system for various applications such as translators, or controlling devices like TVs.

Computer Vision

Computer vision is aimed at helping computers identify and process images in the same way humans do. Just as we learn to distinguish between the faces of different people, computer vision aims to teach machines to recognize different objects that it “sees” through a camera. It does this by looking at individual pixels, identifying different colors, and converting them to a numerical value, then looking for patterns so that it can identify groups of similarly colored pixels and textures. This helps it identify different objects.

Where is AI already being used?

AI is already present in many aspects of our lives. Examples include:

  • Smart Assistants. Smart assistants, such as Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, use natural language processing to understand voice commands—setting reminders, finding music, answering questions, even adjusting your thermostat—all from a home speaker or your smartphone.  
  • Car “Autopilots.” Cars on the road today already use computer vision to operate a range of safety systems—such as tracking traffic around your car, and braking autonomously if the system perceives a danger ahead. To do this, the car needs to be able to rapidly identify different images, predict what could happen, and make a decision on what to do.
  • Recommending Purchases. Popular shopping websites use AI to track what you browse, what you buy, and what you save to look at later. It then uses this information to better tailor the products and services it recommends to you. As the customer, this saves you time searching for what you want. For retailers, it means being able to predict demand for products so they have the right stock in the right places. This improves delivery times and maximizes their chances they are able to sell you something you actually need.
  • Protecting your money. AI is used to constantly monitor bank accounts for potentially fraudulent activities. AI systems track all your purchases over time, and build a profile of your spending habits. The system can then rapidly flag any purchases that seem unusual. For example, if 99 percent of your purchases happen in your hometown, then suddenly a slew of purchases in another country show up, your bank can contact you to check if your card has been stolen.
  • Ride-sharing. Ride-sharing apps like Uber use machine learning to accurately predict when the car you book will arrive. When your app tells you that your driver will be arriving in three minutes, machine learning has been used to analyze the data from millions of previous customer trips to hone that prediction. AI techniques are also used to determine how many cars Uber needs to have on the road at any given time, and in what areas; for example, helping ensure there are extra cars around major stations at peak commuting times.

What AI developments are set to change the world?

Here are some of the most exciting AI developments experts expect to see in the future:

  • Fully automated transportation. AI will play a major role in the development of fully automated transportation systems—from self-driving cars to flying vehicles. Advanced AI systems will help vehicles react safely and intelligently to variable conditions such as other traffic, weather, and road conditions. This will result in transport that is much safer, quicker, and far less stressful than being in control ourselves. Autonomous transportation solutions will also reduce the amount of time people waste commuting through traffic, and free them up for more productive activities.
  • Taking over dangerous jobs. Some jobs are inherently dangerous—such as working with hazardous chemicals. As AI develops, robots with the capacity to make intelligent, independent decisions can take over these roles and remove the need for people to risk their lives doing them.
  • Faster and more accurate medical diagnosis. AI can help doctors increase the speed and accuracy by which they diagnose and treat medical conditions. Doctors will work with AI systems that can access a global database of medical conditions. The AI machine will compare patient symptoms with similar cases, and make recommendations almost instantly.

AI is poised to be the defining technology of the 21st Century. If you are ready to transform your workforce, provide critical upskilling for your teams, and gain competitive advantage, Udacity for Enterprise has a solution that is right for your organization.

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