3 Inspirational Stories of Leaders in AI
Image by Editor


AI has taken over the world in recent years and will still be in the next decade. Can’t we imagine coming back to life before AI? I hardly think so, as AI has started complementing how we live. The breakthrough of AI into everyday life did not happen suddenly; instead, it was intentional by some individuals. Many of these individuals are what we refer to as the leaders in AI.

Leaders in AI don’t necessarily need to be big CEOs of companies or wealthy investors. They could come from any walk of life but still contribute something significant to the AI development we still discuss today. These individuals and their inspiring stories are what we are going to discuss in this article.

Who are these individuals? Let’s get into it.



Thanks to his contribution to the field, Andrew Ng‘s name often comes up when discussing machine learning or deep learning. As the founder of Coursera, which taught millions of individuals, he could be considered an inspirational leader in AI and a legend. But, many behind-the-scenes moments make him so revered.

Andrew graduated at the top of his undergraduate class in 1997, majoring in three degrees: Statistics, economics, and computer science. From 1996 to 1998, he focuses his research at AT&T Bell Labs on reinforcement learning, feature selection, and model selection. His research started to become renowned in 1998 when he built an automatically indexed web search engine for machine learning research papers on the web.

After finishing his Ph.D., he went through an academic teaching career at Stanford University, where he taught his students data mining, big data, and machine learning. At this university, he began advocating for using GPUs in deep learning. This approach, though controversial at the time, has since become the standard.

Starting in 2012, he co-founded Coursera with Daphne Coller with his spirit to provide free learning for everyone. In a similar timeline, he also worked at Google, where he founded the Google Brain Deep Learning Project, and worked at Baidu until 2017. After that, he founded Deeplearning.ai as a platform to learn deep learning online and a Landing AI startup focusing on providing AI-powered SaaS products. Since then, Andrew has focused more on democratizing AI for the public.

With all the works that Andrew Ng has produced, he has opened pathways for many people into machine learning and deep learning. He has been awarded this achievement by many recognitions, including in 2013 as Time’s 100 Most Influential People, in 2014 Fortune’s 40 Under 40, and in 2023 as Time AI 100 Most Influential People.

By keeping his focus and his willingness to provide a learning pathway for many people, Andrew Ng’s story undoubtedly inspires anyone to follow.



If you ever heard of ImageNet, you should know its founder is Fei-Fei Li. As we know, ImageNet is an extensive visual database used for rapidly advancing computer vision development, where more than 14 million images have been hand-annotated and used widely. From one dataset, it’s developed into an essential part of deep learning research.

Fei-Fei Li has an impressive educational background; she graduated with high honors as an undergraduate with a physics major and studied computer science and engineering. Even with high honors, she could still balance her work with her work at that time when she came back home every weekend to work at her parent’s shop.

She received her Ph.D. in 2005 and has served an academic career from assistant professor to full professor at Stanford University. During that time, she also worked at Google from 2017 to 2018, where she expressed her opinion about Project Maven (Military initiative). She said her principle is about human-centered AI to benefit people positively and benevolently.

At Stanford, she established an initiative called SAILORS (Stanford AI Lab OutReach Summers), which aims to educate 9th-grade high school girls in AI education and research. Since then, it’s evolved to AI4ALL, which aims to increase diversity and inclusion in artificial intelligence. 

Her motivation is always about democratizing AI for humans, where some refer to her as a “researcher bringing humanity to AI.” With all her work, she has gained many achievements, notably in 2018 as America’s Top 50 Women In Tech by Forbes and in 2023 as Time AI100.

From a humble beginning, her persistence and principle made her one of the AI leaders we can always look upon.



You might have heard about DeepMind, a Google Subsidiary that aims to bring artificial intelligence into AGI (Artificial General Intelligence). But did you know the founder? It’s none other than Demis Hassabis, the CEO and the co-founder.

Demis Hassabis has been a child prodigy in chess since 4 years old and became the master at 13. He also completed his A-and scholarship-level exams at ages 15 and 16. With the chess-winning money, he bought himself his first computer and self-taught programming.

In his gap year at university, he started to work as a game computer developer. His notable achievement is his work as the lead programmer for the game Theme Park. In his gaming development career, he established his Elixir Studio studio, where he tried to develop a highly ambitious game called Republic: The Revolution but has since scope down as the development takes too long. The studio closed down in 2005, but many of his experiments for AI simulation in the game inspired his works in the future.

In 2009, he received a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience, which he then focused many of his works on the field of imagination, memory, and amnesia. During this time, he also gained a breakthrough in his research that linked the process of imagination and episodic memory. These ideas are what he called the simulation engine of the mind. 

In 2010, he co-founded DeepMind, which aims to combine neuroscience and machine learning to achieve AGI. In 2013, the company launched a training algorithm called Deep Q-Network that could play ATARI games at a superhuman level using only the raw pixels input. In 2014, Google bought DeepMind at £400 million and has since launched many breakthrough developments. DeepMind, in the current time, has advanced much research in deep learning and reinforcement learning, pioneering deep reinforcement learning. 

With all his works, Demis has achieved much recognition, including in 2013 as Listed on WIRED’s ‘Smart 50’, in 2017 as Time 100: The 100 Most Influential People, and in 2020 as The 50 Most Influential People in Britain from British GQ magazine.

From his passion, he keeps working on what he loves and turning it into an advancement for the whole world. His inspiring story should drive us as well to achieve what we want.



This article has discussed inspiring stories from three AI leaders: Andrew Ng, Fei-Fei Li, and Demis Hassabis. They might be a leader now, but everyone comes from somewhere, which was inspiring.

Cornellius Yudha Wijaya is a data science assistant manager and data writer. While working full-time at Allianz Indonesia, he loves to share Python and Data tips via social media and writing media.

Source link