Teaching Humans How to Teach Computers

Resistance is futile — Siraj Raval will teach artificial intelligence (AI) literacy to every single person in this galactic quadrant. Learn more about Siraj's background and journey in this FloydHub #humansofml interview.

Teaching Humans How to Teach Computers

Resistance is futile — Siraj Raval will teach artificial intelligence (AI) literacy to every single person in this galactic quadrant.

If you’ve ever even thought about AI once while standing somewhat near a computer, then you’ve probably already been recommended one of Siraj’s YouTube video lessons.

Here’s a Siraj classic (for obvious reasons):

Siraj is the Director of the School of AI. His five-year continuing mission:

To offer a world-class AI education to anyone on Earth for free.

Prior to founding the School of AI, Siraj taught Deep Learning at Udacity and worked as a software engineer at several startups including Twilio and Meetup. When he’s not programming or live-streaming, Siraj is also a rapper and postmodernist — don’t worry, we’ll get into this.

I’m thrilled to share my conversation with Siraj for this Humans of Machine Learning (#humansofml) interview. In this post, we’re going to discuss Siraj’s own (ongoing) journey to learn AI and what it’s like to be a leading YouTube educator.

Let’s do this.

Walk me through a typical day in the life of Siraj Raval.

Engaging with my community across all of my distribution channels, video production work, School of AI bug fixing, making sure my Deans are happy, saying no to lots of opportunities, business development, planning, dancing to relieve stress.

Yeah, right. Is that what you did today?

Every single day. Except for Saturday, I don’t work on Saturday.

Okay, I’ll leave Saturday alone then. So, diving in, what exactly is Artificial Intelligence?

A computer that can mimic some aspect of human cognition.

Why is it “artificial”?

Because its not biological in nature, yet. Wait till the biotech industry starts taking off though.

How did first you get involved in this field?

I saw an article about this robot called the PR2 in college and got hooked on the potential for robotics so I started working at the robotics lab at Columbia. Here’s an early video from my days (and nights) in the lab:

You remind me of Dr. Frankenstein in that video, in a good way. Do you think everyone needs to learn Artificial Intelligence? Or machine learning?

Yes! From 5 year olds to grandmas. It’s evolution.

Speaking of evolution, what should companies and enterprises be thinking about as it relates to AI?

They should be thinking about what kind of insights can they extract from their datasets. I’d be asking myself:

What can I learn from my data that would act as a decision making tool?

The way I see it is: Apply AI, profit.

What are some practical applications of deep learning that you’ve seen companies start doing? For example, I’ve personally been enjoying the Gmail suggested replies feature — but I’m sure you’re seeing companies of all sizes start to incorporate AI and machine learning.

AI in medicine is the most exciting to me. I’m all about human evolution. We are a species defined not by our limitations, but by our ability to exceed those limitations. AI will not only be able to cure disease, but also enhance human intelligence and physical capability. I’m very excited by the potential of gene editing technologies like CRISPR, brain computer interfaces, and novel enhancement drugs.

Are you interested in the singularity? Or Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)? What are your thoughts about the future of AI?

Of course! I started diving into quantum computing a few weeks ago and thus quantum mechanics. And quantum mechanics has me questioning the nature of consciousness lately. I’m not as certain we can replicate it, but I hope we can! Regardless, I’m more for human enhancement at this point. I would rather use AI to make ourselves super-intelligent.

Let’s chat about the School of AI. Where did this idea come from?

I wanted to offer a better learning experience to my audience than just YouTube videos. A full-on course structure. It kind of just skyrocketed from there. I completed a decentralized apps and reinforcement learning course last year. My YouTube following is one of School of AI’s distribution channels, in total we have about 520,000 students.

How does your mission differ from non-profits like Khan Academy?

We’re focused on AI. I love Khan Academy though, Sal Khan is the OG edutuber.

I’m impressed by the network of School of AI “Deans” around the world. What role do the deans play in the vision and execution of the School of AI?

Thanks, we are all very close. We have about 800 Deans across 400 cities in over 130 countries. They help teach AI in their local communities and provide a safe learning space that aligns with our values.

I love your school’s values. Can you tell me more about “Choose Love Not Fear” and “Embrace the Weird.”

The School of AI's seven values

If we all just loved each other, we’d solve every problem way faster. AI should be built by people who embrace love, who care about making the lives of other humans better.

Embrace the weird is really important to me. I love the strange, the unknown, the different. Its the mindset of future humans, it helps us come to consensus faster.

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve seen already from your students?

One of our fellows just published a paper on using multi-agent reinforcement learning to reduce C02 emissions.

When did you decide to fully dive into the world of YouTube?

3 years ago. I chose Youtube because i considered it the best distribution channel to maximize impact.

What was your very first YouTube video? Can we see it?

Intro to bitcoin. Sure, lol. Search “Bitcoin Siraj”.


Other than that, what’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done on air on YouTube?

Revealed that I wanted to be white when I was younger. That thinking that anglicizing myself would make me more accepted by society. It showed vulnerability and insecurity. But it needed to be said, no regrets.

How long does it take to do a single video, start to finish, research to recording to editing?

40 hours.

How do you balance your output between live-streaming and polished videos?

I’ll let you know when I figure that out. Both are great in different ways.

Let’s talk about your rig. What hardware do you use?

A MacBook. And a custom-built desktop for live streaming, not super expensive.

And what software?

Default software.

What would be your dream setup?

Brain computer interface. I want to be 100x smarter, more empathetic, more capable.

Any favorite YouTube channels that we should check out?

Haha. JusReign is my favorite youtube channel, although he has nothing to do with AI.

Oh, I forgot to ask. Rapping. Post-modernism. What’s the deal?

Yeah I rap. I actually have a rap music video I’m shooting tomorrow. Lyrically, its a full lesson on AI. Post-modernism is apart of ‘embrace the weird’. Reality is absurd, create ‘weird’ stuff.

That was great. Please send me that rap AI lesson music video when it’s done. Thank you, Siraj! Can you let people know where to find you online?

Go to www.youtube.com/c/sirajraval, hit the red subscribe button. Thanks!