Reading articles on large companies making breakthroughs in machine learning and neural networking makes a part of me quite excited.
So I wanted to ask if it's useful for an individual to get into this sort of stuff? Is this a viable career path right now? What beginner books or sites can you recommend?
Have a look here:
google site:news.ycombinator.com subject of your question
More often than not a bunch of links will pop up.
good luck with studying!
I think it is worth mentioning that "beginners" should be understood as beginners in machine learning and not beginners in computer science. Ng's course more or less assumes students have the equivalent of an upper division undergraduate or graduate background in computer science.
While it may be a valuable learning experience for a person who isn't comfortable knocking out algorithms, academic success will be rather difficult to achieve.