Why Machine Learning?

Why would anyone want to be a Machine Learning engineer?

I cannot be presumptuous and speak for others, but I can tell you why I wanted to be one. It boils down to one word. "Magic".

It all goes back to my childhood when I was utterly bitten by the computer bug in my father's office. I used to hang out with him most of the days, playing games on the computer. I was enthralled by the possibility of such a small machine that makes the tiny human on the screen jump when I press a button. How does that piece of metal know what to do and when? And it was capable of running not one, but multiple games! I could ride a bike, kick another person while riding a bike, I could race cars, I could rescue a princess, I could go through prison walls. Imagine your fantasy world being given to you in a small piece of metal box to do with as you please. It was magic to a 5 year old.

The intense curiosity fuelled by a magic trick and the drive to find out how it was being pulled off is what captured my fascination in computers.

Result: I was simple boy. I just wanted to know how it worked.

Fast forward 12 years, I am a CS student at an engineering college, learning how a computer does what it does. After learning a bit about computers and coding in high school, you now understand how a computer runs your game, how it calculates the equations you throw at it and how it is capable of a myriad of operations that you didn't know existed. Your curiosity is quenched up to a certain extent. A computer is not that much of a magic box that it once seemed to be. All is good.

Then you encounter a computer that can recognize your voice and can convert your speech to text! And your entire understanding of how a computer works is turned upside down. If you ask it to add 4 and 5, you know it is capable of giving you the correct answer. But you give it an audio file and ask it to recognize it, you would never expect it to actual deliver. Add the fact that the underlying architecture of a computer has not changed in decades, the ability of a computer to take such soft, ambiguous decisions based on just algorithms is mind blowing.

It seems like magic when I see a computer recognizing my face in a video, recognizing my friends in the picture, gauging my emotions, hailing a cab when it's time to leave for office and asking if I wanted a coffee on the go since it understands that I love coffee and take it usually in the mornings. It was magic to a 20 year old.

Being exposed to this all new ability of computers to affect our daily lives and change it drastically for the better (or worse) just fuels my curiosity further. How does it know where to park the car? How does it know if I am going to the office or to my friend's place?

Even after 4 years of studying CS, a computer can still make you drop your jaw, just like it did when you were 5 years old. It still appears to be a magic box that is capable of doing something you would never expect it to do.

Result: I am a simple man. I just want to know how it works. Plain and simple.