I've been looking into AI research and I've noticed a nontrivial amount of individuals either received a PhD in math or had advisors who received a PhD in math. Some names include (Ben Goertzel, Marvin Minsky, Jürgen Schmidhuber).

I can see how a formal (arguably more difficult) training in math would help tackle issues in AI, but it'd make more sense to do a PhD in AI if one wants to make a career studying AI, no?

In contrast, all the high impact papers for top machine learning conferences (KDD, ICML, NIPS) were mostly from CS labs, but I cannot say that this is the norm in other AI subareas.

Is it actually better to do a PhD in math and do research in a topic that converge with AI?

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    $\begingroup$ PhD programs in Computer Science are relatively very new compared to PhD programs in Mathematics. It is impossible to expect people to have PhDs in certain fields before the programs build up or even exist at all. $\endgroup$ – mdxn Dec 31 '16 at 5:44
  • $\begingroup$ @mdxn -- Computer Science and PhD in computer science have been around for at least 40 years -- but granted not as populous in the early days, and yes math have been around a lot longer -- but being "new" is not the reason, the general applicability of math in the area is the reason $\endgroup$ – Soren Dec 31 '16 at 5:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Soren Marvin Minsky (specifically mentioned by the asker) got his PhD in Mathematics an entire decade before the first PhD in computer science was even offered (as far as I am aware). I imagine this applies to the unnamed "advisors", too. This phenomenon explains why some subset of the people they are seeing have PhDs in Math rather than CS. I'm pretty sure the asker is already aware that there is some cross-over between AI and math/stats. They want to know of additional reasons as to why people appear to have "preferred" the other degree programs. $\endgroup$ – mdxn Dec 31 '16 at 6:20
  • $\begingroup$ there is a deeper question here maybe relating CS to math which there are many other questions on this site relating to. AI is in some ways a relatively new field that does not have a standardized background or content eg the way that CS does, and so people from different/ diverse backgrounds show up. notice Bostrom, an expert/ authority/ high profile speaker has a philosophy background. etc. there are also a lot of participants with statistics or datamining backgrond. etc $\endgroup$ – vzn Dec 31 '16 at 17:41

All computer science is born out of Math. The are a lot of computer programmers, web designers and the like who may not have math background, but they do not count as as computer scientist.

AI and other machine learning is all based on Math and statistics, so even going for a PhD in AI would mean that would have to learn a significant amount of math anyway.


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