I started down the AI rabbit hole two years ago. Looking back, I never felt like I was studying — I was having fun. To me, AI was simply much cooler than most things at work or at school. It was real-life science fiction, and I felt like I was binge-watching good TV.
Artificial Intelligence should not be intimidating. You don’t need programming skills, textbooks, or research papers to grasp how AI is transforming the way we work, socialize and innovate. Becoming AI-literate is easy. More importantly, it is fun. Thankfully, it can also be free.
Some of the best AI knowledge I picked up came from videos. If you want to step into the wide world of AI without learning how to code, I will lay out a video road map that you can use. You can pick and choose what you watch. You don’t need prior knowledge of AI or computer science. You don’t even need your wallet. All you need is curiosity and the willingness to be entertained.
Time: 5 hours (30–45 min per episode)
The Age of AI is a YouTube Original TV series released in late 2019. The first season consists of 8 episodes and is narrated by Robert Downey Jr., a.k.a. Tony Stark/Iron Man. He’s clearly the perfect person to teach us how AI and future tech will change our lives.
YouTube creating a show about AI should tell you how quickly AI is going mainstream. So yeah, don’t get left behind. Other people might think you’re old-fashioned or uncool. You might even be met with ‘OK Boomer’ comments well before your time, and that’s no fun at all.
All eight episodes are highly entertaining, easy to understand, and packed with examples of how AI is improving our world. You’ll see how AI will help 3D print buildings on Mars, prevent famine & war, diagnose & cure illness, augment humans, and even search for aliens.
You can watch the episodes that interest you, but be warned, you will probably watch them all.
Time: ~4.5 hours of video content
OK, so you enjoyed The Age of AI on YouTube. You may also have questions about AI terminology and the basic ideas behind things like machine learning and computer vision. That Age of AI may have provided you with an ‘AI skeleton’ but you may now want to put some meat on those bones.
The video-based AI for Everyone course on Coursera really helped me with this. You can complete the course for free unless you want the certificate. The instructor, Andrew Ng, is a heavyweight in AI research circles. He also co-founded Coursera, was the founding lead of Google Brain, Chief Scientist at Baidu, and teaches at Stanford, among other pursuits. Learning AI from him is like getting guitar lessons from Jimi Hendrix.
The course requires no prior knowledge of AI or programming. It is organized as a 4 week course but only has 5 hours’ worth of content. The course focuses on the business side of AI, so if you’re not interested in this, feel free to stick to weeks 1 and 4.
Week 1 (What is AI) provides a foundation. It introduces machine learning using simple examples, talks about the importance of data for machine learning, and demystifies AI terms such as deep learning.
Week 2 (Building AI projects) talks about how machine learning projects are organized and staffed, and how to choose AI projects.
Week 3 (Building AI in your company) gives you an introduction to popular AI products such as smart speakers and self-driving cars. It talks about how companies can approach AI and outlines branches of AI such as computer vision and natural language processing.
Week 4 (AI in Society) explores how AI will impact the world around us. It looks at how to prevent discrimination and bias in AI algorithms in corporate hiring or bank lending, for example. It also considers the impact AI will have on jobs and developing economies.
Time: 1 hour (~30 min per episode)
Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and the real-life Tony Stark, sat down for a 2-part podcast with AI researcher Lex Fridman. Both episodes are fun and easy to follow.
Part 1 focuses on Tesla’s self-driving technology. Tesla cars have the world’s best self-driving ability. Their lead is so big that it’s not even close. This self-driving capability is powered by neural networks and computer vision, and Musk discusses this at length. A recurring theme is that self-driving cars are far safer than cars with human drivers. Musk also mentions Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), or machines that can do anything a human can do, but with superhuman ability.
Part 2 touches on some super interesting topics. Musk talks about possible AI futures and the need to regulate AI before it harms humanity. We also hear about another Musk venture, Neuralink, and the goal of augmenting the human brain with technology.
There are many TED Talks about AI. Some of them look to the future while others are highly relevant to present day.
Deepfakes — AI-generated images and videos that can look like real people — is a something that we will see a lot of very soon. Some applications will be positive, such as computer-generated images of human models for use in advertising and marketing. Other applications will be sinister, such as fake news where Deepfake videos show world leaders saying things they never actually said.
We will soon face the daily challenge of determining (or guessing) which video or image is fake or real. This TED Talk on deepfakes and how to spot them is a great way to understand the topic and start the conversation.
Congratulations! You can now talk about AI at a party without making your fellow guests hate the host for inviting you. Trust me, it is not easy.
What next? That’s entirely up to you. There are plenty of free AI courses on Coursera, edX, and the like. If you are interested in ‘big picture’ AI and how the American and Chinese approach to AI looks like, I recommend reading ‘AI Superpowers’ by Kai-Fu Lee. Now that you’ve started, I’m sure you can find other material on your own.