For every new robot, there are hundreds of computer scientists and researchers who put in thousands of hours to make sure it works.
These researchers gravitate to the time-intensive field of artificial intelligence (AI) for different reasons — computers are a lifelong passion, AI could hold the answers to our worst problems, or because AI could make their favorite science fiction books real.
Tech Insider spoke to 16 computer scientists, roboticists, and entrepreneurs to learn why they chose the field for a living.
Scroll down to see their lightly edited responses.
Shimon Whiteson is tired of puny human brains.
I've been very interested in computers since I was a little kid. My older brother taught me computer programming when I was five years old. I was really drawn to it because it gave me control over the computer and it was really creative.
Once you learn how to program you can do whatever you want with a computer. There are a lot of creative opportunities. It's also a really addictive kind of problem solving. So I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to work with computers.
But then as I got older I got really frustrated by how slowly humanity was solving the fundamental mysteries of the universe. I thought the bottleneck here is that our brains are just too puny. It's too hard to think about these really big problems with our little brains so what we need to do is we need to augment our brains with something that will make them smarter. We need to make computers so smart that they can help us solve these big problems.
Shimon Whiteson is an associate professor at the Informatics Institute at the University of Amsterdam.
Pieter Abeel wants to make a difference.
I've always been fascinated by understanding how things work. If I had gone on to study whatever I found most intriguing in high school, it'd probably have been physics. But with the field of physics already so far along, it just seemed engineering had more potential to lead to doing something that'd have tangible results within my lifetime.
Within engineering, artificial intelligence quickly became most fascinating to me. Building a system that can do (somewhat) intelligent reasoning seemed like it'd open up a lot of possibilities, and also downright intriguing.
Pieter Abeel is a computer scientist at University of California, Berkeley.
Yoke Matsuoka wanted a tennis buddy.
Originally I wanted to become a professional tennis player. When I realized that's not what I was going to be, I wanted to build a robotic system, like a robotic buddy who could play tennis with me.
In order for me to build a robot like that, capable of playing tennis, I had to give it plenty of intelligence ... it has to be able to think and then move accordingly. As I started wanting to build that robot at the Berkeley undergraduate school and [at] MIT, I started to realize I had to study a lot of AI.
Yoky Matsuoka is the former vice president of technology at Nest, a Google-owned company that makes smart thermostats.
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