Andrew Ng: Deep Learning, Education, and Real-World AI | Lex Fridman Podcast #73 | Summary and Q&A

February 20, 2020
Lex Fridman Podcast
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Andrew Ng: Deep Learning, Education, and Real-World AI | Lex Fridman Podcast #73


Learn deep learning through online courses, practice projects, and pursue a PhD for a career in AI.

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Key Insights

  • šŸ“š Learning through courses and consistent study is key to gaining deep learning skills. The Deep Learning AI specialization on Coursera is a recommended starting point for beginners.
  • šŸŽ“ The specialization takes about 4 months to complete, but students can go at their own pace.
  • āœļø Taking handwritten notes during the learning process can improve retention and understanding of the material. ā° Regularity and making learning a habit are important. Setting aside dedicated time each day or week for studying will lead to more consistent progress.
  • šŸ¤ Building practical experience through projects is crucial. Starting with small projects and gradually building up skills and knowledge is a great way to gain expertise in deep learning.
  • šŸ’¼ Pursuing a PhD is not always necessary for a career in deep learning. Top PhD programs and job opportunities at prestigious organizations are both viable paths. The choice depends on individual goals and aspirations.
  • šŸ’” Unsupervised learning, particularly self-supervised learning, is an exciting idea in deep learning that holds promise for the future. Generating label datasets from unlabeled data can improve performance and lead to new insights.
  • šŸš€ Taking the first step and starting small projects is essential for gaining confidence and expertise in deep learning. Gradually tackling bigger projects will help expand skills and knowledge.
  • šŸŽÆ Focus on practical experience and building projects rather than just theory. This will help develop skills and also have a real-world impact.
  • šŸ” Exploring various learning resources such as blog posts and research papers can enhance understanding and knowledge in deep learning beyond what courses offer.
  • šŸ’¼ Pursuing a PhD is a valuable experience for those interested in academic careers or in-depth research in deep learning. However, there are multiple good options available, and a PhD is not necessary for all career paths in the field.


the following is a conversation with Andrew and one of the most impactful educators researchers innovators and leaders in artificial intelligence and technology space in general he co-founded Coursera and Google brain launched deep learning AI landing AI and the AI fund and was the chief scientist at Baidu as a Stanford professor and with Coursera ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How can individuals get started with deep learning and AI?

One of the best ways to get started with deep learning is by taking online courses like the Deep Learning Specialization. These courses provide a strong foundation and practical knowledge to begin building deep learning models. Additionally, individuals can practice by working on small projects and experimenting with different algorithms and techniques. Building this experience and portfolio will be valuable when seeking job opportunities in AI and deep learning.

Q: Is a PhD necessary to have a career in AI?

While pursuing a PhD can be beneficial in certain career paths, it is not necessary for everyone. Many successful AI professionals have built their skills through online courses, practical experience, and working on real-world projects. It is important to consider individual goals and weigh the options available, such as working in industry or academia, before deciding on pursuing a PhD.


This conversation is with Andrew Ng, a prominent figure in the artificial intelligence and technology space. He discusses his journey into computer science and machine learning, his experiences teaching and filming online courses, and his thoughts on the future of AI and machine learning. The conversation also covers the importance of scale in deep learning, the challenges and benefits of using a whiteboard for explanations, and Andrew's work in creating new companies, helping established companies with AI, and providing education in deep learning.

Questions & Answers

Q: What inspired Andrew Ng to get into computer science and machine learning?

Growing up in Hong Kong and Singapore, Andrew started learning to code when he was very young. He found it fascinating that he could write code and create video games. Another influential moment was when he was a teenager and read about expert systems and neural networks, which sparked his interest in the field.

Q: Why did Andrew decide to teach online courses and create Coursera?

Andrew realized that by filming his lectures and putting them online, he could reach a much larger audience and have a greater impact. He also wanted to automate parts of the education process to make it more efficient and scalable. This led to the creation of the first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and eventually, Coursera.

Q: What were some challenges Andrew faced while filming online courses?

Andrew shares that many of the videos were filmed late at night under pressure to deliver content for the rapidly growing audience. He recalls times when he would have to choose between going home or staying late to film videos. Despite the challenges, his motivation came from the thought that his content could help thousands or even millions of people learn about machine learning.

Q: How did it feel to know that the videos Andrew filmed late at night would reach thousands or millions of people?

Andrew explains that it was a humbling experience rather than one of personal satisfaction. He focused on doing what was best for the learners and making the concepts as clear as possible for them. His goal was to reach as many people as possible and help anyone with an interest in machine learning pursue a career in the field.

Q: How did Andrew's early work in deep learning contribute to the growth of the field?

Andrew mentions that in the early days, deep learning was not widely accepted or understood. However, his research showed the importance of scale in deep learning models, which led to the belief that bigger models trained on larger datasets would result in better performance. This idea was groundbreaking at the time and eventually gained widespread acceptance.

Q: Is bigger scale or better learning methods more important for advancing deep learning?

Andrew believes that both are important and that it depends on the problem being tackled. For some datasets, reaching the theoretical limits of performance would require better learning methods. However, for many problems, larger datasets with existing learning methods can still lead to significant improvements in performance.

Q: How does Andrew envision machine learning becoming accessible to a broader audience?

Andrew compares the growth of machine learning to the growth of literacy in the past. Just as the ability to read and write was once limited to a small portion of humanity, he believes that in the future, the majority of developers will have some understanding of machine learning and AI. He hopes to see people from diverse professions learning the basics of machine learning and using it in their work.

Q: Why does Andrew prefer using a marker and whiteboard for explanations, even on big stages?

Andrew explains that the simplicity of using a marker and whiteboard is compelling, especially for explaining mathematical concepts. It allows for a step-by-step build-up of equations and complex ideas. Additionally, writing on a whiteboard forces him to simplify concepts and focus on the most important principles.

Q: How did Andrew and his team tackle challenges and setbacks while working on the autonomous helicopter project?

Andrew recalls the difficulties faced during the project, such as the challenge of localizing a flying helicopter and the various failed attempts to solve it. He highlights the importance of persistence and eventually finding innovative solutions, such as using ground cameras for localization. Despite the setbacks, the successful demonstrations of the autonomous helicopter had a significant impact on the field.

Q: What are the focus areas of the AI fund, Landing AI, and DeepLearning.AI?

The AI fund aims to create new companies from scratch, Landing AI helps established companies with AI adoption, and DeepLearning.AI focuses on providing education in deep learning. The AI fund invests in and supports startups by providing capital and expertise. Landing AI helps companies integrate and deploy AI solutions, and DeepLearning.AI offers courses and specializations to help individuals break into the field and excel in their careers.

Q: How can someone interested in deep learning get started in the field?

Andrew recommends taking the deep learning specialization offered by DeepLearning.AI. It covers the foundations of deep learning, including neural networks, activation functions, optimization algorithms, and practical know-how for building and debugging machine learning models. The prerequisites for the specialization are basic programming skills and a basic understanding of high school-level math.


Andrew Ng's work in machine learning education has had a significant impact, inspiring millions of learners worldwide. His emphasis on doing what's best for learners and providing practical know-how in deep learning sets his courses apart. The importance of scale in deep learning and the potential for machine learning to become a common skill among developers highlight the future growth and impact of the field. Both larger datasets and improved learning methods are crucial for advancing deep learning. The use of a whiteboard for explanations and the focus on foundational concepts help simplify complex ideas and enhance understanding. Andrew's ongoing efforts with the AI fund, Landing AI, and DeepLearning.AI aim to create new companies, support AI adoption in established companies, and provide accessible education in deep learning.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Andrew Ng offers online courses, such as the Deep Learning Specialization, to help individuals learn and master deep learning concepts.

  • Starting with a strong foundation in programming and high school-level math is sufficient for beginners to take the courses.

  • Regular practice and building small projects are key to gaining practical experience and skills in deep learning.

  • Pursuing a PhD may be beneficial for those aspiring to become professors or researchers in the AI field, but it is not necessary for a successful career in the industry.

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