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The Godfathers of AI


With so much press and hype surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications over recent years, it is very difficult to keep track of everything that is going on. Social media has a vast array of channels for professionals, reaching over may industries and focussing on differing levels of technical and strategic abilities. To stay connected, there are some experts and influencers that everybody with a vested interest in AI must ensure they follow. This article talks about some of those key players in the data-centric world around us.

Andrew Ng

Considered as one of the top minds in machine learning, Andrew Ng is having a huge impact on AI education. He is best known for co-founding Coursera, the online education portal and his machine learning course at Stanford University remains the most popular on the site. In 2017, Ng started, a project specialised in deep learning education projects aimed at engineering and mathematics students.

At the start of 2019, “AI for Everyone” was released on Coursera. Ng said on his blog that the AI-powered future must be built by both engineers and application domain experts. The course is designed to ensure we have experts in every industry who can apply AI to their organisations.

Credited as the founder of the Google Brain project and featured in the Times 100 Most Influential People, Andrew Ng is a go to source when it come to AI and machine learning. Since 2018 he also launched and currently heads the AI Fund, a $175 million investment fund for backing artificial intelligence start-ups.

Geoffrey Hinton

Hinton is a leading figure in the deep learning community and even been penned as the “Godfather of Deep Learning” by his peers. He was recently named as of the three recipients of the A.M. Turing Award for his decades of work advancing the field of artificial intelligence. The deep learning techniques inspired by Hinton and his collaborators have achieved significant breakthroughs in several applications from voice recognition in mobile devices all the way through to diagnosing cancerous tumours in medical scans.

Hinton has taught his own course via the Andrew Ng owned Coursera and worked for Google from 2013. The focus of his research is ways in which neural networks can be used for machine learning, memory and perception. He has put his name to many research papers and is the co-inventor of Boltzmann machines, one of the first neural networks capable of learning internal representations.

AI is in Hinton’s blood, being the great-great-grandson of logician George Boole, whose work formed the foundations of modern computer science.

Yann LeCun

As the VP and Chief AI Scientist at Facebook, Yann LeCun has quite the list of credentials. He was part of the team that were awarded the Turing Award in 2018 alongside Geoffrey Hinton and is the founding Director of Facebook AI Research and the NYU Center for Data Science.

LeCun is best known for his contributions to deep learning and neural networks with applications used in computer vision and speech recognition technology. With over 190 papers published in this area as well as several other AI topics, LeCun is high up the list of experts when it comes to the subject.

Beyond his role at Facebook, LeCun has co-founded start-ups including Elements Inc and Museami. He has too many qualifications to mention as well as being in the New Jersey Inventor Hall of Fame and a member of the US National Academy of Engineering.

Like Hinton, LeCun sees an amazing future in using AI to solve real world problems such as diagnosing diseases through medical image analysis.

Ian Goodfellow

Sometimes referred to as “The GANFather,” Ian Goodfellow is the inventor of a powerful AI tool that can pit different neural networks against each other. GAN stands for a Generative Adversarial Network, an approach to machine learning frequently used at Facebook. Given a training set, the approach learns to generate new data with the same statistics as the training set. For example, a GAN trained with images can generate new images that look at least superficially authentic to observers.

One use case could be in fashion where GANs can create photos of imaginary models with no need to hire a model, photographer or equipment. This could drive entire campaigns.

Yann LeCun has said that GANs are the “coolest idea in machine learning in the last twenty years.”

Goodfellow obtained his BS and MS in computer science under supervision from Andrew Ng. He joined Google as part of the Google Brain research team and after a brief stint away at the OpenAI Institute, re-joined Google in 2017.

Fei-Fei Li

As a former Google employee and Professor at Stanford University, Fei-Fei Li is one of the most prominent women in the world of AI. She is well known for her non-profit work as the Co-Founder and Chairperson of the organisation AI4ALL whose mission is to educate the next generation of AI thinkers and leaders. In 2018, AI4ALL successfully launched five more summer programs in addition to that at Stanford University due to its overwhelming success.

Li has published around 200 papers on AI, machine learning, computer vision and neuroscience-based topics. She has been highly commended as a pioneer and researcher who strives to being “humanity to AI.” Amongst her portfolio is the ImageNet project which has revolutionised the field of visual recognition. Many see the work as a catalyst to the current AI boom.