DeepMind Co-Founder Legg Offers AI Advice To London Teen

Shane Legg, chief scientist and co-founder of artificial intelligence firm DeepMind, has offered five pieces of advice to young people looking to start careers in the AI field.

Legg gave the advice in response to a tweet by Aron Chase, a 17-year-old from London, who asked him earlier this week, “What would be the 5 pieces of advice and tips you would give to a young person like me?”

Legg advised him to learn linear algebra well, calculus “to an OK level”, probability theory and stats “to a good level”, the basics of theoretical computer science, and programming  in Python and C++.

He also encouraged Chase to read and implement machine learning papers and to “*play* with stuff”.

Aron Chase. Credit: Aron Chase


Chase, an ICT student at Oaklands sixth form college in Welwyn Garden City, said he had taken the advice on board and had already added it to a whiteboard listing his goals over the next year.

He told the BBC he was considering a university course specialising in AI or an apprenticeship, citing advice from Tesla founder Elon Musk that “college degrees aren’t as good as getting hands-on experience”.

Chase said he was looking for experience and had decided it could help to keep up with AI leaders like Legg.

DeepMind is one of the firms on the cutting edge of AI research, having created the AlphaGo system, which beat a human expert at the complex game of Go for the first time ever in 2015 and later went to best world champion Lee Sedol.

Credit: Aron Chase

Key tech

The company’s technology is also being used in fields as varied as detecting breast cancers and powering gadgets such as Google Assistant. DeepMind was acquired by Google for a reported £400 million in 2014 and is now a Google sister company at parent Alphabet.

Careers in AI are desirable not only for their high salaries – due in part to a shortage of experts in the field – but also because the area forms the core of cutting-edge fields that range from driverless automobiles to medicine to finance.

The New York Times last year suggested DeepMind pays its AI scientists $345,000 (£265,000) a year on average, on a par with the salary of an investment banker, though the firm hasn’t confirmed this.

The UK government has identified AI as one of the key features of its Industrial Strategy, and European countries including France have launched major AI initiatives to develop and attract AI talent.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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