The deep learning tidal wave (the most central part of the “AI revolution”) is now changing every industry. As an example, as a venture capitalist in China, I was a part of a “tiny” side effect: Geoff's 2012 paper and ImageNet result inspired four computer vision companies in China, and today they are collectively worth about $12 billion. Keep in mind, this was just one small field in one country based on one of Geoff's result. Geoff's result also led to deep learning disrupting speech recognition (the area of my Ph.D. work), resulting in super-human accuracy in 2015 by Baidu's Andrew Ng (recruited to Baidu after Geoff joined Google part-time). And much more broadly, every technology monolith (Google, Microsoft, IBM, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba) built its platform for deep learning, and re-branding themselves as “AI companies”. And in venture capital, we saw the emergence of many unicorns (in China alone there are over twenty) powered by deep learning. Also, deep learning required much compute power that traditional CPUs could not handle, which led to the use of GPUs, the rise of Nvidia and the re-emergence of semiconductors to handle deep learning work-load. Most importantly, our lives have changed profoundly – from search engines to social networks to e-commerce, from autonomous stores to autonomous vehicles, from finance to healthcare, almost every imaginable domain is either being re-invented or disrupted by the power of machine learning. In any domain with sufficient data, deep learning has led to large improvements in user satisfaction, user retention, revenue, and profit. The central idea behind deep learning (and originally from backpropagation) that an objective function could be used to maximize business metrics has had profound impact on all businesses, and helped the companies that have data and embraced machine learning to become incredibly profitable.
While Geoff was not my Ph.D. advisor, his impact on my Ph.D. thesis was tremendous. His student Peter Brown (co-inventor of statistical machine translation, now CEO of Renaissance Technologies) was my mentor, and taught me how to apply various types of machine learning algorithms to speech recognition. This was a primary reason that helped my Ph.D. thesis to become the best-performing speech recognizer in 1988, which helped shift the speech recognition field from expert-systems approach to machine-learning approach. If I have benefited so much from Geoff and Peter, there must be thousands of other beneficiaries, given Geoff's brilliance, persistence, and generosity.