TECHNOLOGY

You Can Now Major in Artificial Intelligence

At least two U.S. universities will offer computer-science degrees focusing on A.I. beginning in the fall of 2018.

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BY Gael Cooper - 15 May 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It's a college major that sounds straight out of science fiction: Starting this fall, at least two U.S. schools are offering degrees focused on artificial intelligence.

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh announced on May 10 that the school will launch a bachelor of science program in artificial intelligence this fall.

"Specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers," said Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science, in a statement.

Students in the computer-science school can enter the degree program in their second year. The course of study will include the same computer science and math courses as other students in the school, but will "focus more on how complex inputs -- such as vision, language and huge databases -- are used to make decisions or enhance human capabilities," the statement says. Additional course work will focus on "AI-related subjects such as statistics and probability, computational modeling, machine learning, and symbolic computation."

And good news for those who have seen The Terminator a few too many times. Reid Simmons, research professor of robotics and computer science and director of the new AI degree program, says the program will emphasize ethics and social responsibility. It will include "independent study opportunities in using AI for social good, such as improving transportation, health care or education."

Carnegie Mellon isn't alone: In January, the Milwaukee School of Engineering announced it will offer a computer science degree focused on artificial intelligence beginning in fall 2018. (Hat tip to Engadget for noticing.)

"Artificial intelligence and deep learning have reached a golden age thanks to recent hardware and software advancements," Dr. Derek Riley, program director of the new computer science degree, said in a statement. "Our students will apply computer science theory, machine learning algorithms, and software engineering practices to produce computing solutions for a wide variety of problems in many industries."

"Like all other MSOE programs, computer science students will be taught an industry-driven curriculum in an application-oriented environment, ensuring that they are prepared to hit the ground running upon graduation," said Dr. John Walz, president of MSOE.

No question, it's a timely degree. The fast-growing field needs trained employees, Microsoft Learning group program manager Matt Winkler told Indian news agency PTI in an article published Sunday.

"A lot of folks are very, very excited about (AI) and then they want to go and make that real," Winkler said. "And when they go to make that real, there's a really large skills shortage."

Artificial intelligence goes well beyond the in-home digital assistance such as Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa. The concept is pushing beyond the tech industry into firms of all types. From aiding in recruiting to fraud detection to inventory control, the use of AI in business is expected only to continue to grow.