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Ashwin Ram, Udacity, Intersect 2017 A passion for learning has informed the life and career of Dr. Ashwin Ram for nearly 30 years. He wrote his Ph.D. dissertation at Yale on “Question-Driven Understanding.” He has co-authored books on “Goal-Driven Learning” and “Computational Models of Reading.” He has founded startups focused on social learning and artificial intelligence. He is currently Senior Manager of AI Science for Alexa, the intelligent agent that powers Amazon Echo and other devices. He leads the Alexa Prize, a $2.5M student competition to advance Conversational AI.

Is it any wonder we’re ecstatic to have him as a speaker for Intersect 2017?

Our conference theme is Learning for the Jobs of Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond, and it’s difficult to think of many people better-positioned to offer incredible insight on this subject than Dr. Ram. As but one example of just how forward-thinking his vision has been, consider the following:

‘Learning’ is beginning to peel away from ‘Education’ as a separate market, with its own set of opportunities and challenges for practitioners, technologists, and entrepreneurs. While ‘education’ is driven by schools, colleges, and governments, ‘learning’ focuses on empowering the individual to take charge of their learning.

Dr. Ram made this observation in 2012, a time when he held the role of Chief Innovation Officer of Interactive Intelligence at PARC. His clear-eyed understanding of where learning was headed is remarkable for its accuracy, given this statement was made 5 years ago—another era, by modern technology standards!

In his role with Amazon Alexa, Dr. Ram is uniquely equipped to understand “The Jobs of Tomorrow.” When introducing the Amazon Alexa prize in late 2016, he wrote that, “Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming ubiquitous. With advances in technology, algorithms, and sheer compute power, it is now becoming practical to utilize AI techniques in many everyday applications including transportation, healthcare, gaming, productivity, and media.”

This is a powerful truism we experience every day as we work closely with our students to help them prepare for careers in artificial intelligence. The burgeoning ubiquity of AI means that career opportunities are expanding with ever-increasing velocity, and this is extremely exciting.

When Amazon first became one of our Udacity Hiring Partners, we spoke with Rohit Prasad, VP and Head Scientist at Alexa, about the future of work in the field:

The Alexa team is dedicated to accelerating the field of conversational artificial intelligence. Udacity’s Artificial Intelligence Nanodegree program is aligned with our vision to advance the industry. As a contributor to the program, we’re excited for students to build new skills, and get access to a global pipeline of talented individuals looking to advance their careers.

And when Dr. Ram delivered a keynote address at the AI Summit near the close of 2016, he had this to say:

No longer is AI solely a subject of science fiction. Advances in AI have resulted in enabling technologies for computer vision, planning, decision making, robotics, and most recently spoken language understanding. These technologies are driving business growth, and releasing workers to engage in more creative and valuable tasks.

At the center of Dr. Ram’s presentation was the recognition that we’ve moved from the age of the keyboard, to the age of touch, and are now entering the age of voice. He affirmed his belief that Alexa is making this future possible, and stated that Amazon is committed to fostering a robust cloud-based voice service. It is this voice service that the innovators of today, tomorrow, and beyond will be building, and it is this voice service—and the ecosystem around it—that awaits the next generation of AI talent.

Conference attendees will have the opportunity to hear directly from Dr. Ashwin Ram at Intersect 2017, making this event a rare opportunity to gain valuable insight into one of the most transformational technologies of our time, from one of the most consistently forward-looking minds in the field.


Learn more about Udacity’s Intersect 2017 conference here, and make sure to bookmark the livestream here!

Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins is Senior Writer and Chief Words Officer at Udacity. He types on a MacBook or iPad by day, and either an Underwood, Remington, or Royal by night. He carries a Moleskine everywhere.