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Question
I haven't started University yet and I'm still not quite sure which career path to take; however, I recently found out about AI and I am extremely interested in it but I'm wondering if it would be the right path to take, career wise. By that I mean, will I be able to earn a lot of money out of it?
And what type of careers involve AI?

Answer
Making money is pretty easy in the software business.  Sadly, working in AI is a more unpredictable path.  there is speech recognition and natural language understanding, which is my area of interest.  then there is vision, and many other areas.  I suggest you find the one thing that you have a real passion for and focus on that. I suspect the money part will come with time, as AI matures and gets a better track record.  Here is my standard explanation:

What is AI?

AI is based on the ability to communicate with a computer.  The obvious best way is through speech.  It would also be good for computers to be to 'see' as well.  The problem with true conversational speech interaction - human to computer - is enormous.   This problem has not been solved and won't be for at least 5 - 10 years.   What about all the telephone based speech systems that United Airlines and Amtrak and others use?    These are extremely primitive systems that can't really converse with the user even in the most basic sense.  They ask simple questions and expect simple answers.   What is the definition of AI as it relates to conversational speech based interaction?  Of course you can see in the movies and on TV what the expectation is.  The most extreme was the movie AI where the small boy in the film was an 'android' and could be 'loved' by humans.   This kind of thing is centuries in the future if ever.   What we would like to see as a first approximation of AI is a functional conversional system for purchasing products (like airline tickets) in a completely natural conversational fashion as if you were talking to a human.  This may occur in the next 10 years or so.  You might also be able to manipulate other software programs with natural conversation such as Microsoft Office.   This will be the primary practical advantage of AI, the ability to control computers and machines.  

Artificial Intelligence

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Chuck Cosby

Expertise

I can answer questions about speech recognition and natural language understanding. I am particulary strong in knowedge based natural langauge techniques. I cannot answer questions about robotics, nueral nets, prolog, or vision recognition - just speech and natural language.

Experience

I have spent 25 years developing natural language software products. I have never developed speech systems, but I have developed sophisticated interfaces from natural language to speech. I have been working with speech recognition systems also for 25 years.

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