So, you want to learn AI …

School daze.  Learning new technologies in late middle age is like playing the old greased watermelon game.  The game was played at a swimming pool by rubbing Vaseline all over a whole watermelon, tossing it in the pool and telling the kids to jump in and wrestle it out of the pool.  The resulting mayhem and general buffoonery were priceless.  There were plenty of theories as to how to get the watermelon out of the pool.  Pull it underwater and swim underwater.  Push it toward the ladder and carry it up the ladder.  Squeeze the watermelon between two kids.  While no best practice was ever discovered the watermelon did always end up coming out of the pool.  I suspect the same will be true for learning AI without completing a master’s degree in Computer Science.  Mistakes will be made but learning will occur.

Learning by writing.  This blog is testament to the idea that a person can make some progress in leaning a new area of technology by writing about that area of technology.  You not only have to read enough to learn something worth writing about you also have to be able to explain it to others.  Reading loads the gun.  Writing pulls the trigger.  Unfortunately, the resulting intellectual weapon is more of a squirt gun than a Sig Sauer.  Getting real traction with a new technology area can start with writing but has to progress to building solutions.   But where to start?

When in doubt search it out.  A quick query of “Learn AI” in the Google search engine seemed like a good place to start.  The resulting 133 million results begs the question of whether one needs AI to sort through the ways to learn AI.  A few hours of link chasing surfaced some patterns.

Just do it.  One school of how to learn AI involves picking a problem that interests you and building an AI based solution to solve the problem.  Ben Hammer, co-founder and CTO of Kaggle, put forth his “Eight Easy Steps To Get Started Learning Artificial Intelligence”.   Needless to say, several of the steps involve Kaggle.  This seemed a bit like teaching a kid to swim by throwing him into the deep end of a pool.

Audacity.  Online educational outfit Udacity offers a free Introduction to Artificial Intelligence course.  It requires intermediate skills and will take 4 months.  Anytime something substantial is offered fro free Spider Senses should start tingling.  The prerequisite to the class is an Intro to Statistics course that requires beginning skills, is also free and will take 2 months.  Coursera also offers a Machine Learning course.  There is a free option and an option for $79 whereby you get a certificate at the end if you pass.

Water water everywhere.  There seem to be multiple good ways to get started learning AI.  Updates from the attempt to teach an old dog new tricks will be posted as the educational process unfolds.




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