IBM Watson and Udacity want developers to learn AI online

Udacity, the education platform focused on helping workers gain skills they need for great careers in tech, has partnered with IBM Watson, Didi Chuxing and Amazon Alexa to offer a new nanodegree in artificial intelligence, the companies announced today at the IBM World of Watson conference.

IBM Watson is co-developing the curriculum of the course with Udacity. Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing intends to hire students who successfully complete the nanodegree, as does IBM. And Amazon Alexa is serving as an advisor to Udacity in developing the new AI nanodegree.

According to Udacity’s founder Sebastian Thrun, who previously started Google’s innovation shop Google X and its self-driving car initiative, the new AI nanodegree will be for students who already have a level of mastery in software development.

IBM’s Rob High, the Vice President & Chief Technology Officer of IBM Watson, wrote in a company blog post that the new nanodegree it is developing with Udacity should teach students to build apps or platforms using game playing and search, logic and planning, computer vision and natural language processing, among other things.

Asked if this nanodegree would also include curriculum that covers ethical considerations in artificial intelligence, Thrun politely but adamantly said:

“No. There’s a lot of fear mongering these days in the AI field. AI is not about to take over or destroy the world. Instead, it’s going to free us of repetitive mindless work. Say you are doing an office job and every day you do the same thing. At some point an AI watching you will make you one hundred times more efficient at your job, and it will free up a lot of your time. I think AI is to the human mind what the steam engine was to the human body…I see this as positive news for the world.”

The Udacity AI Nanodegree is comprised of two, 13-week terms, the first of which will open in early 2017.

The curriculum is still being developed. Yes, the AI nanodegree will be taught by humans. But no, Udacity hasn’t ruled out the development of artificially intelligent apps to help those teachers do their work, Thrun said.

Udacity faces competition from the likes of EdX, Coursera and other edtech platforms that want to teach workers the skills they need for solid careers in a tech-driven economy.