I was giving a short talk on machine learning at Microsoft last week and the talk was visited by Yoshua Bengio and Li Deng. If you work in ML or AI you probably know these two names. Bengio (University of Montreal) and Deng (Microsoft Research) are two of arguably the five best-known names in deep learning. The other three top DL names are Andrew Ng (Stanford), Geoffrey Hinton (University of Toronto), and Yann LeCun (New York University).
Bengio was very gracious and answered questions from the people in attendance. In addition to being a really smart guy, Bengio is very articulate and an excellent presenter. Li Deng is also a very strong presenter.
In the picture below, I am farthest to the right, Deng has his back to the camera, and Bengio is taking off his coat so he can address the attendees.
The visit by Bengio and Li reminded me that I’ve been very fortunate to have met some super smart people over the years. Many of the people I bump into at Microsoft Research are incredibly intelligent. And I was greatly influenced by several of my UC Irvine university professors, including super-famous Edward O. Thorp (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_O._Thorp) and Nobel-winning Sherwood Roland (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._Sherwood_Rowland).
In the area where I live, there are quite a few sports stars that I see at places like the local Starbucks and grocery store. And when I go to Las Vegas to speak at conferences, it’s not unusual for me to bump into famous movie stars. But, I never really get excited by people in those fields. For me, an exciting encounter is with someone who is famous for their intellectual achievements.