2023 Pie & AI Ambassador Spotlight: Brennan Pursell, Pennsylvania

Pie & AI is a series of events organized by DeepLearning.AI, a global community aimed at fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). These events are typically informal gatherings where attendees can network, learn, and engage with others who share a passion for AI, ML, and related technologies.

Why did you join the DeepLearning.AI community as an event ambassador?

The short answer is that Andrew Ng persuaded me that AI is the new electricity. We are plunging into the fourth industrial revolution, and as a professional educator I need to prepare my students to contribute to, and compete in, the new economic landscape unfolding before us. As an organization, what DeepLearning.AI cares about most is sharing knowledge about this remarkable technology, which makes it a rare organization in a sector marked by sensational corporate profits and enormous societal costs.

What do you do when you are not hosting events with DeepLearning.AI

I’m a professor at DeSales University in Pennsylvania where I teach courses in data analytics, AI, business statistics, and business ethics. Currently I’m working on a grant application to launch a partnership of various entities to introduce the world of data to underprivileged young people in inner-city Allentown. There’s so much talent there, and together we can add real value to the City, the school district, and to many families. We need to show people clear paths out of low-wage economic traps.

Describe a few highlights from your event ambassador experience.

Every event brings its own high point. Discussions of research results are always enlightening, but to see the demos of the applications under development is really exciting. I would not be surprised if knowledge graphs soon become normal tools in supply chain management, and if the data lakehouse supersedes both warehouses and lakes. The way AI image classification and NLP are suffusing traditional ERP systems is super cool, and the range of tasks that RPA apps can do is widening very quickly. The automation wave is gaining size and speed every day.

What have you gained since joining the DeepLearning.AI community?

A second wind in my career as an educator. While I would never claim to be an AI expert – I consider myself to be a permanent student – some people regard me as one. Day in and day out, it’s very exciting to focus on the cusp of major, systemic change. Being part of the community has helped me watch the rise of transformers and diffusion models, so ChatGPT did not come as a surprise. One could go as far as claiming that the nature of data itself is changing. Who would have thought that columnar queries across structured and unstructured data files were remotely possible?

Do you have any additional thoughts about Pie A& AI or being part of the community?

While DeepLearning.AI’s emphasis on coding and software development is fully appropriate, I have long held the view that the larger trend in this field is toward no- and low-code solutions. While Python and the many open source libraries are sensationally powerful, the vast majority of the world’s AI users will not make it over the considerable barriers to acquiring sufficient coding competence. It will take a lot of effort to prevent AI tech from being cornered by a few corporations with the will and the resources to try and pull it off. The benefits of AI should belong to the many, not the already opulent few.

Do you want to become a Pie & AI Ambassador?