Don Beyer doesn’t usually bring his multivariate calculus textbook to work, but with final exams coming up, he’s running out of time. The 72-year-old Democratic congressman from Virginia has recently been taking a part-time master’s program in machine learning at George Mason University, taking one class each semester, slowly but steadily working his way toward a degree that he hopes to one day Apply AI knowledge to legislative work. He said he spent the time he used to spend reading books solving problems. He usually does his homework between 9 and 11 p.m., and every Thursday night takes a Zoom class with a group of 18-year-olds, often with their cameras off, who don’t know or care that their classmates are members of Congress. He is chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee, the agency that oversees NASA. He was fascinated by the potential of AI when he visited George Mason University a year ago and asked if he could come to a class. The university sent him a catalog and made an exception for missing the registration deadline. To qualify for a master’s degree, he needs to complete seven undergraduate math and computer science courses. He has completed three courses this year, with four remaining, and he expects to start actual graduate work in machine learning in 2024.
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