Democratize AI: Prologue

Alexander Fred-Ojala
Published in
4 min readJul 10, 2018


This is the first part of the Democratize AI article series — an illuminating exploration of emerging technologies, where everyone is invited to join!

The last decade artificial intelligence went from dream to reality

Computers suddenly became intelligent, and not just in a rigorous way defined by a set of hard-coded rules, but intuitively intelligent. Today computers can see, listen, speak, read, walk, and beat human world champions in practically any game.* Tiny handheld devices are able to give you real-time recommendations on the optimal route to take in a congested traffic area, recommend the song most suitable for your current mood, and show you what restaurant you should go to. The same device will automatically tag people in your photos, track and predict how to optimize your sleep, recommend news articles according to your interests, present real time stock analysis, suggest email replies etc.

Currently, fully-functioning technology that would have been pure sci-fi only five years ago are located in our pockets. The development of this new, revolutionary technology has been so rapid that it is difficult to keep up (even for a researcher in the field).

The urgent need for AI talent

This rapid advancement has created an urgent need for AI talent and experts. China’s AI powerhouse Tencent recently published their “Global AI Talent White Paper”; they are estimating that there are only 300,000 experts (100k still in school) on the planet that can lead and deploy serious AI projects. However, the global market demand for AI talent exceeds several millions, and this need is growing exponentially. The demand for AI talent is also reflected in the article “Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries for Scarce A.I. Talent”, published in the New York Times. The article highlights the astonishing fact that tech companies are offering up to $300k in annual salaries to newly grads in the field.

The cover of The Economist from Jan 2018. The issue outlines ways to limit the (unfair) AI advantages of the tech behemoths.

The most successful companies of the past decade — i.e. the tech behemoths Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft — have realized the enormous potential of cutting-edge AI technology. They are not only attracting most of the talent in the field (recruiting whole academic departments), many tech companies have also set up their own AI labs and research divisions that actively contribute to the advancements in the field.

However, it is not only the tech giants that can benefit from utilizing the power and capabilities that comes with novel AI technology. There are many industries that are ripe for disruption and democratization — all of which can be powered by AI. Established market players in classical industries, e.g. retail, finance, production, energy, etc. are yet to discover the full potential and possible implications of these new technological advancements.

We are in the early renaissance of Artificial Intelligence and all of its related fields are booming. Industries are changing bottom up and human behavior is transformed by the advancements of these technologies. The everyday life of everyone on the planet is and will continuously be affected by this transformative technology.

AI technology is here to stay and in order for it to benefit everyone — and not just a selective elite in the Silicon Valley — the consequences, benefits, and potential pitfalls of this technology together with how it can be used, has to be analyzed and communicated in a way that is accessible for everyone.

Democratize & Demystify

In light of this, and in my role as a researcher and lecturer in this field at UC Berkeley, I want to set out on a mission democratize and demystify the concepts and consequences of AI. The Democratize AI article series aims to fulfill the evident need for an up-to-date, accessible, and comprehensive map of the AI landscape. This is just the prologue, a teasing trailer for what’s to come. Future articles will explore a plethora of topics in order to illuminate you on the future of this exciting technology where I will dissect AI’s current state, its future, its challenges, and its possibilities. Most of all, I want to make knowledge about the technology accessible while at the same time dive into how researchers, professionals, people, societies and all beings on this planet can benefit from the emergence of machine intelligence.

Do you want to know what sci-fi scenarios will come true in one, three, ten, and fifty years? Are you interested in how we can prevent AI technology from corrupting democratic processes and elections? Have you ever pondered what the baby of Blockchain and AI would look like? Or do you just want to stay ajour when it comes to one of the most hyped and relevant fields of technology?

If so, stay tuned for the next post in the Democratize AI article series: Spark AI Summit — An Odyssey of the World’s Most Renowned AI Conference



Alexander Fred-Ojala
Editor for || Research Director, Data Lab, SCET, College of Engineering, UC Berkeley