MIT's Rodney Brooks Gives 3 Tips for Young People Interested in A.I.

Want to work with robots? 

By: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

If the idea of working with robots tickles your fancy, then you may want to pay attention to Rodney Brooks’s advice on how to get into A.I. The Aussie roboticist is the chairman of Rethink Robotics and the former director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, so he knows the business. He spoke today at South By Southwest Interactive with editor Nicholas Thompson about his area of expertise. Though he noted we need not worry about A.I. systems reprogramming themselves and turning against humankind, he did have three interesting and amusing suggestions on how a 25 year old might enter and advance the field.

1.) Money, money money: On making some quick cash off robotics, Brooks advised to think about human aging. “If you want ten- twenty-year financial [gains], hit elder-care robots.” Because, well, we all know getting old is neither easy nor a cheap business.

2.) Think green: Brooks sees environmental cleanup as a task that A.I. can handle. “How can we have robots that sort the trash we make into recyclables and the stuff that has to be in a landfill?” Well, “People don’t bother learning that, so build robots to do that that,” he suggested. “With deep learning, actually you can do a lot of classification.” This is more of a longterm project and not one for aspiring millionaires.

3.) Want to help out Elon Musk get us to Mars?: Brooks noted, “If Elon Musk is right about getting lots of people going to Mars, we’re going to need a lot of robots before people get there to build the habitation for them. If we are going to go to Mars in any real way, the robots are going to have to get there and set up those supplies.” Those could be your robots. When asked how distant we are from creating robots that can take human direction and build a landing station on the Red Planet, Brooks said, “That’s a very doable thing.” You just need a little money from the government, and boom, there you go to outer space.

Good luck, young folk.

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