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A.I. gives it the old college try

Carnegie Mellon University is a bellwether for engineering emphasis; they’re often on the cutting edge of whatever is about to be the corporate cutting edge. CMU was one of the first to the party of autonomous driving. Uber took notice, ‘partnered’ with the university before poaching the entire robotics team for its internal R&D lab. I’m not here to argue about the ethics of that hiring move, but rather to note that CMU has a habit of figuring out what the next big thing in technology might just be by the simple nature of its frontier-leading research efforts. And one of the best barometers of where that research ought to and will be aimed? An undergraduate major in that particular field. And I’ll bet you’ll never guess the major CMU just announced… (by that I mean of course you can guess what they just announced).

A Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence, as part of the Computer Sciences Department.

The Talent Shortage

There are simply more companies looking for expertise and experience in A.I. than there are true experts to fill those positions. The top A.I. people are getting poached for ever-greater financial sums from top company to top company (or research institute for that matter). That increase in both poaching behavior as well as the increasing salaries of those involved shows the A.I. talent pipeline is shallow at a time when the demand for that very talent is soaring.

“Specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers,” said Andrew Moore, dean of the CMU School of Computer Science.

As any great capitalist enterprise hopes to do, CMU recognized a market inefficiency, realized it was just the one to fill said inefficiency, and went about filling it: “”Carnegie Mellon has an unmatched depth of expertise in AI, making us uniquely qualified to address this need for graduates who understand how the power of AI can be leveraged to help people.”

The Human Touch

As we’ve argued in this blog before, the ethics of A.I. and computer programming can and should take on an outsized role as we develop those very systems. And one of the primary concerns for researchers, academics and capitalists alike is ensuring the A.I. we are creating has both a human purpose and a human touch. How does it alleviate suffering, empower the disenfranchised, remove workers from harms way, free up employees to focus on things beyond the rote, and on and on. And to that end, and recognizing its necessity, CMU has made ethics and society core tenets of the course of study, according to MIT Technology Review:

“Students will study the ethical and societal implications of AI with professors from other departments, like social sciences and public policy. They will also have opportunities for independent study in using AI for social good (like improving transportation, health care, or education). Other courses will cover areas like statistics and probability, computational modeling, machine learning, and symbolic computation.”

What’s more, the practical elements of the course work will also go toward human ends, according to Reid Simmons, research professor of robotics and computer science and director of the new AI degree program. He said the bachelor’s degree in AI will focus more on how complex inputs, such as vision, language and huge databases, are used to make decisions or enhance human capabilities.

The Implications

Carnegie Mellon is often the harbinger of the tech to come. That’s not a surprise. It also shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who reads this blog that A.I. is the next big thing in more industries than we can count. College, in so many ways, are a great trailing indicator of what the market desires, as majors crop up or fall away largely based on what that market demands.

Today’s market demands computer science engineers with speciality and expertise in artificial intelligence — Carnegie Mellon is happy to deliver. Don’t be surprised to see a lot more coming on line in the coming months and years.




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Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff founded ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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