Who Is Andrew Ng?

Andrew Yan-Tak Ng is a computer scientist and entrepreneur who now resides in the United States but was born in Britain. Ng has served in multiple prominent roles such as Chief Scientist at Baidu and head of Google Brain and has made substantial contributions to the field of AI as an academic and investor. 

Education

Ng grew up in Hong Kong and then Singapore before moving to the United States in the 1990s. In 1997, he triple-majored in computer science, economics, and statistics at Carnegie Mellon University. 

After graduating top of his class, Ng then spent two years or so at AT&T Bell Labs where he researched reinforcement learning, feature selection, and model selection. 

In 1998, he earned his Master’s from MIT and whilst there, developed the first publicly available search engine for academic papers. The index was a precursor to CiteSeerX and had an emphasis on papers related to machine learning. 

Ng received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, under the tutelage of renowned computer scientist Michael I. Jordan. Ng’s thesis, entitled Shaping and policy search in Reinforcement learning, has been cited numerous times since its publication in 2003.

Stanford research and Coursera

Ng joined the Stanford University faculty as an assistant professor in 2002 and currently holds the title of Adjunct Professor of Computer Science.

Over the past two decades, he has served as the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) director and instructed students on topics related to machine learning, data mining, and big data. In 2008, one of his teams was also the first to advocate for the use of GPUs in deep learning.

Later, in 2012, he co-founded Coursera with Daphne Koller after witnessing how popular his AI and ML courses were with students. Ng also started the massive open online course (MOOC) platform because of a personal philosophy that education should be accessible to all.

Google Brain and Baidu

Ng joined Google in 2011 and was one of the founding members of the Google Brain Deep Learning Project with Jeff Dean, Rajat Monga, and Greg Corrado. One of the earliest projects was a now-infamous neural network trained to recognize cats from YouTube videos.

In mid-2014, however, Ng left Google and joined Baidu based on the belief that the Chinese company was “the best place to advance the AI mission.” In other words, Baidu had the necessary funds (and expertise) to push AI forward. 

What’s more, Baidu was seen as more nimble than equivalent Silicon Valley companies, with shorter product cycles and a preference for tracking daily usage over monthly usage. 

Ultimately, Ng led a 1,300-strong team responsible for dozens of AI projects related to search, maps, voice search, food delivery, consumer finance, and security.

Landing AI

In March 2017, Ng announced in a Medium post that he would be departing Baidu but continue to work in AI: “Baidu’s AI is incredibly strong, and the team is stacked up and down with talent; I am confident AI at Baidu will continue to flourish. After Baidu, I am excited to continue working toward the AI transformation of our society and the use of AI to make life better for everyone.

Around six months later, Ng founded Landing AI, a self-professed pioneer of the Data-Centric AI movement. This movement enables companies to enjoy the benefits of AI (even if they have limited data sets) and move related projects from proof-of-concept to full-scale production. 

AI Fund

In January 2018, Ng unveiled the start-up incubator AI Fund with a $175 million investment. Unlike a traditional VC firm that invests in outside companies, Ng’s vision was to have small teams working in stealth until they were ready to emerge and scale quickly.

Since its inception, AI Fund has supported various initiatives that solve complex problems in the fields of depression, fuel consumption optimization, weight loss, manufacturing efficiency, and machine learning software development.

Key takeaways:

  • Andrew Yan-Tak Ng is a computer scientist and entrepreneur. Ng has served in multiple prominent roles such as Chief Scientist at Baidu and head of Google Brain and has made substantial contributions to the field of AI as an academic and researcher. 
  • Ng joined the Stanford University faculty as an assistant professor in 2002 and currently holds the title of Adjunct Professor of Computer Science. Over the past 20 years, he has served at Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) and started Coursera after witnessing that his AI and ML courses were popular with students.
  • Ng joined Google in 2011 and was one of the founding members of the Google Brain Deep Learning Project with Jeff Dean, Rajat Monga, and Greg Corrado. After a stint at Baidu, he founded Landing AI and AI Fund to realize his passion for developing AI that benefits everyone.

Key Highlights

  • Background and Contributions:
    • Andrew Yan-Tak Ng is a computer scientist and entrepreneur known for his significant contributions to the field of artificial intelligence.
    • He has held prominent roles such as Chief Scientist at Baidu and head of Google Brain.
  • Education and Early Career:
    • Ng was born in Britain and grew up in Hong Kong and Singapore before moving to the United States.
    • He studied computer science, economics, and statistics at Carnegie Mellon University.
    • Ng earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, under the supervision of Michael I. Jordan.
  • Stanford University and Coursera:
    • Ng joined the Stanford University faculty as an assistant professor in 2002.
    • He directed the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) and taught courses on machine learning, data mining, and big data.
    • Ng co-founded Coursera in 2012, driven by his belief in accessible education.
  • Google Brain and Baidu:
    • Ng joined Google in 2011 and was a founding member of the Google Brain Deep Learning Project.
    • He left Google in 2014 to join Baidu, leading a large AI team across various projects.
  • Landing AI and AI Fund:
    • Ng founded Landing AI in 2017, a company focused on Data-Centric AI solutions for various industries.
    • He launched AI Fund in 2018, an incubator supporting startups solving complex problems through AI.

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