In May 2018, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) announced that it is offering, what is believed to be*, the first undergraduate degree in Artificial Intelligence in the country. It will be a B.S. in AI (BSAI). It’s about time.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the way we work, play, and live. We interact with AI every day, even though we may not realize it. Think Siri or Alexa. Smart offices. Self-driving cars. Music recommendations. Edge devices everywhere from hospitals and transportation hubs to the factory floor. AI is the embodiment of the intelligent digital edge and its impact is growing exponentially right alongside the demand for AI specialists. This new undergraduate degree is designed to address the increasing need for talent in the incredibly tight AI job market. For example, AI experts are currently the most on-demand hires on Wall Street.
The leaders in AI have been the movers and shakers in the tech industry. Think Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Uber. They’re fueling the demand for AI expertise, and they’ll get it because the future movers and shakers in AI can now earn a bachelor’s degree from one of the most prestigious tech schools in the country.
Update (November 2018): A suburban Pittsburgh public school district has now partnered with CMU (and other tech, robotic, and arts companies) to offer the nation’s first AI program for K–12 students. Read more about this STEM/STREAM program.
The Growing Importance of AI
“Specialists in Artificial Intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply, or in greater demand by employers,” according to Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science. “Carnegie Mellon has 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.”
A statement from the university says the new AI program is intended to give students in-depth understanding of “ways to transform large amounts of data into actionable decisions.”
"The program is intended to educate students to think broadly about methods that can accomplish a wide variety of tasks across many disciplines," said Reid Simmons, research professor of robotics and computer science and director of the new AI degree program. It will focus more on how complex inputs like vision, language, and huge databases can be used "to make decisions or enhance human capabilities,” he explained in a statement. But he also says the curriculum will include classes on ethics and social responsibility to encourage students to use AI for social good, such as healthcare and transportation.
“We believe that students will be well prepared for graduate work in AI and related disciplines, such as machine learning, robotics, and language technologies. The coursework will give students a very solid foundation in math, statistics, and computer science, along with a comprehensive exposure to the breadth of subjects in Artificial Intelligence, including symbolic and probabilistic reasoning, search and planning, graphical models, robotics, computer vision, language understanding, and human-AI interaction. Students will learn the fundamental theory behind these subjects, along with how to use and develop AI techniques. Many opportunities will be available for undergraduates to do research, which will further help prepare them for graduate work.”
The Original Tech Incubator
For more than half a century, CMU has been at the forefront of computer science and AI. The first AI computer program, Logic Theorist, was developed there in 1956. The school launched the first computer programming course in 1958, the world’s first PhD program in robotics, as well as the world’s first Machine Learning Department. In 1982, grad students developed the first edge device, a Coca Cola vending machine that checked stock and measured temperature. The school has always been ahead of the tech curve and it still is. In 2018, U.S. News and World Report ranked CMU’s School of Computer Science (SCS) as the number one graduate school for Artificial Intelligence. Now it will be the number one school for undergrads as well.
The program, set to begin in the fall of 2018, will only accept 100 students who can choose AI as a major after their first year, which equates to about 30-35 students per year. Competition for spots will be tough as SCS enrolls approximately 700-750 students annually. That means the AI program will account for only about four percent of newly enrolled students.
CMU is known as a hotbed of talent and student start-ups and spin-offs are common. On graduation or before, student AI projects may end up in commercial applications. CMU’s Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation helps undergrads and grad students take student projects to market.
The Tech Talent Grab
Pittsburgh is also a hotbed for talent in the tech industry. The city is home to CMU’s Robotics Institute and its National Robotics Engineering Center, which develops robotics solutions from concept to commercialization. CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center is also a geek haven and has been called the Disneyland of video game schools and interactive entertainment.
Adding to the mix in Pittsburgh and the grab for talent are some high-tech giants. Google landed in Pittsburgh in 2006 and has recruited many CMU SCS grads to develop new digital edge applications such as voice assistants. Facebook recently announced that it is opening new Artificial Intelligence research labs in Pittsburgh and Seattle—Facebook AI Research Labs (FAIR)—making competition for recent grads even stronger. In addition, Uber is developing self-driving technologies at its Advanced Technologies Group, which is right down the road from the Robotics Center. Pittsburgh is also on the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2.
Lastly, south of the city next to a horse farm, is Black Box’s headquarters and where we are quite proud to be considered one of the leading providers in intelligent digital edge solutions, including those used to make AI possible. AI is big and getting bigger. The Artificial Intelligence market is predicted to be a $100 billion industry by 2025. The question now is how can businesses use AI to give them a competitive edge? To do that, they need the right partner to help them embrace digital transformation and leverage the right technologies at the intelligent digital edge.
The Milwaukee School of Engineering announced a Computer Science degree focused on AI that’s also scheduled to launch in September. The school said it will offer a B.S. in computer science with a focus on Artificial Intelligence.
See related article: Nation’s First Public School AI Program Launched in Partnership with CMU
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