How I got into AI
To work with artificial intelligence was nothing Laura Masaracchia had in mind when she was younger, but wanting to understand the world led her on the right path. Now she is working as a Machine Learning Engineer at Semcon since November 2017.
When I finished high school and needed to decide what to do with my life, the choice was not easy. I had many interests and I didn’t have a favourite subject at school – I was pretty good in all of them.
So, I asked myself: what’s my biggest passion? Since volleyball and motorbikes, although absolutely valid answers for me, were not valid enough answers for my parents, the answer in the end became: to understand the world, how things happen and how life is possible.
Going through a bachelor degree in physics and a master degree in complex systems, my goal to understand the world turned more into wanting to understand the human brain and how it works. That led me to a master’s thesis in computational neuroscience.
Richard Feynman used to say “What I cannot create, I do not understand”, meaning that in order to understand something, we need to be able to reproduce it. The field of neuroscience was born based on this principle, i.e. trying to understand how the brain works by reproducing its inner computations mathematically.
The field of Machine Learning includes computational neuroscience and optimizing the computational models produced, so to create algorithms that can perform as well as, and sometimes better than, a human does on some specific tasks. Machine learning algorithms (broadly under the name of Artificial Intelligence, AI) can also spot correlations and patterns that we humans do not see, opening up for new solutions and possibilities.
To me, this is an extremely interesting and very exciting point! Moreover, it is something that I can see in my daily work. Using computer vision for autonomous driving, exploring what the neural network sees and association of elements that are not natural for us. Or when running analysis of correlations on some data and letting the networks understand interesting relations that I could not notice.
AI, the sweet spot between passion and usefulness
It is easy to be excited and interested in all of this, but AI is not just the cool app that answers all your questions: it is also a machine that helps doctors in making diagnoses, it is the software for predictive maintenance in important and critical mechanical pieces, robots taking care of elders, autonomous driving and so much more.
It is a world of performance driven research and findings. A world that combines the increasing computational power of new hardware technology and ambitious automation plans, with the final goal of making our lives safer, more efficient and more independent.
Aristoteles said: “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation.” For me, AI has plenty of space for passionate interest (or talent), but it is also the most powerful tool that we have to make the difference today. That’s when life choices become easy!
Title: Machine Learning Engineer
Education: MSc in Complex Adaptive Systems, Chalmers University of Technology
Worked at Semcon since: November 2017
I have most fun at work when I…: find challenging problems