11 Thought Leaders in Artificial Intelligence


Names to know in a fast-growing field

Artificial intelligence is a broad, exciting, and at times, overwhelming field. This unfortunately means there are many uninformed opinions floating around from people with only cursory experience with AI. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most respected names in the industry—experts in areas from natural language processing (NLP) to robot ethics—that provide accurate insight into the field.

Of course, don’t forget to follow the SparkCognition family on Twitter, too. Our General Manager of IIoT Usman Shuja offers occasional hot takes on cricket; Director of Product Management Keith Moore shows the fun of working at SparkCognition; and General Manager of Defense and National Security Wendy Anderson offers insights into the world of Washington.

  1. Geoffrey Hinton
    One of the most famous researchers of artificial intelligence, and a major contributor to the idea of deep learning and deep neural networks, Hinton divides his time between the University of Toronto and Google Brain.
    Fun fact: Hinton was briefly an intern at Google—at the age of 64.
  2. Andrew Ng (Twitter)
    Andrew Ng is the highly respected founder of the Google Brain Deep Learning project and former Chief Scientist at Baidu. Ng is also a dedicated proponent of education, as co-founder of Coursera and current adjunct professor at Stanford University.
    Fun fact: In 2011, over 100,000 people signed up for Stanford’s first massively successful MOOC taught by Ng—on machine learning.
  3. Michael Jordan
    A professor at University of California, Irvine, Jordan popularized the use of Bayesian networks in machine learning and has done a lot of work on the links with statistics. A tool that analyzes published papers found that he was the most influential computer scientist in the field (in fact, he has collaborated with Ng in the past).
    Fun fact: Jordan did an extremely thorough AMA on Reddit a few years ago.
  4. Feifei Li (Twitter)
    A professor at Stanford University and Chief Scientist of AI/ML at Google Cloud, Li specializes in computer vision and cognitive neuroscience—essentially teaching computers how to see and think. She’s also the co-founder and chair of AI4All, which strives to increase diversity in the field.
    Fun fact: Li’s TED Talk has over 2 million views. 
  5. Manuela Veloso
    A leader in the field of autonomous robots, Manuela Velosa is currently a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. She’s a former president of the RoboCup Federation, the robot soccer league where CMU teams have emerged as champions many times.
    Fun fact: Velosa’s visitors are escorted to her office at Carnegie Mellon by a CoBot.
  6. Peter Stone
    Another major player in the robotic soccer world, Peter Stone is the chair of the Robotics Portfolio Program at the University of Texas. His research focuses on creating robust autonomous agents that can interact with other intelligent agents in varied situations.
    Fun fact: Every year, Stone organizes a humans vs robots soccer match. He claims it gets harder every year, though he’s unsure “if the robots are better or the humans are older.”
  7. Francesca Rossi (Twitter)
    Francesca Rossi is sought after for her work on the ethics of AI, like preference modeling and reasoning, constraint processing, multi-agent systems, and voting theory. She is a professor at the University of Padova and works closely with IBM.
    Fun fact: Rossi brought a Nao robot as her date to a party for Harvard Radcliffe fellows and reported that he was a great dancer.
  8. Dragos Margineantu (Twitter)
    The AI Chief Technologist at Boeing, Margineantu works in areas like vision perception to create autonomous airplanes.
    Fun fact: Margineantu is the parent volunteer for an elementary school math team.
  9. Bruce Porter
    This might be cheating a little, since Porter is the Chief Science Officer of SparkCognition. However, as two-time chair for the Department of Computer Science at UT Austin, he has been a significant contributor to the field and gained national recognition for his work on NLP.
    Fun fact: Amir Husain studied computer science under Dr. Porter at UT, and the two have authored papers together.
  10. Rob High (Twitter)
    Rob High has spent 37 years at IBM, working his way up to CTO of IBM Watson, driving technical strategy and thought leadership. He specializes in the application of deep natural language processing to unstructured data to infer answers.
    Fun fact: One of High’s projects at IBM involved teaching social skills to robots.
  11. Amir Husain (Twitter)
    Author of The Sentient Machine, holder of 23 patents, and not shy to take on big issues in our AI-enabled future, Amir Husain also happens to be the CEO of SparkCognition (and an all-around great boss). It was love at first sight when Amir saw a computer at age 4, which has fueled his immersion into the field. We may be biased, but we think we saved the best for last on this one.
    Fun fact: He’s also a big believer in AI’s predictive abilities.

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