These days, artificial intelligence (AI) is creeping into everything we use. From curating content for your Facebook and Instagram feeds to unlocking your phone with your face, AI understands and enhances the ways in which we interact with the world around us. We’ve seen movies about how AI can take over the world, and we read news articles about how machines know more about us than ever. But is AI going to really take over the world? If not, what are the practical applications of AI? And, at a more basic level, what even is AI? There are so many questions, and the field can be large and daunting.
Why care about understanding AI?
In short, having a basic knowledge of how AI impacts tools and products can open many doors. If you work as a manager at a company, understanding how machines can learn patterns in data can help you decide what intelligent features engineers should build. If you work as a developer or engineer, knowing the fundamentals of AI and machine learning algorithms can help you optimize what you build, likely increasing the value of your products. If you hardly care about technology, well, AI is a major innovation that has the impact to radically change your life. The consequences of building machines that can process information faster than us or make better decisions than we do could have enormous consequences.
How does one get started learning about AI?
There are lots of tools out there. Coursera has introductory courses aimed at programmers, YouTube has some educational videos, and textbooks exist for practitioners to refine their skills. But until recently, there hasn’t been an accessible way for anyone with a high school math background to pick up tangible AI skills.
Trace Comics is a new site dedicated to making learning computer science simple and fun. Currently, they’ve launched with one topic — artificial intelligence, but they have several series within AI, such as “Hot Topics in AI” and “AI Math Essentials.” In each comic strip, they have links to further reading about the techniques they cover, so if you’re looking to understand how to implement these algorithms or learn more about a particular technique, you can find some of the best resources linked on Trace.
What’s most important to know?
Answers to this question vary depending on what you do. If you’re a layperson just curious about AI, the first four series are super useful to read. They cover some of the hot topics in AI at a high level, and concrete AI safety issues to teach you how researchers try to build AI without taking over the world or stealing everyone’s jobs.
If you’re a manager who wants to harness the power of AI in the products your company builds, Trace comics covers some important techniques for machines to learn from data at a high level such that you know what to suggest to your engineers. No math background above a high school level is required. Trace has a series that gets you up to speed on the math you need to know.
If you’re an engineer, Trace presents practical techniques in a concise and engaging way such that when you do implement algorithms, take courses, or read textbooks, you have a good high-level grasp on what’s going on. They publish a new series every week, and the series get more advanced covering techniques from linear regression to deep neural networks in practice.
If you’re interested, check out the comics at this link! Subscribe to stay updated and follow @trace_comics on Twitter and Instagram. Trace is an easy, engaging way to stay up-to-date with computer-related topics.