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Facebook AI Research Paris - What Do Facebook Need AI For?

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Briefly putting aside the fact that a massive AI controlled social network going haywire is the basic premise of Summer Wars, an anime film which depicted the world on the brink of nuclear holocaust, and the fact that the logo they've chosen to use is eerily similar to the Abstergo logo from the Assassin's Creed video games (and the Cyberdyne one from Terminator), Facebook's decision to open up an AI lab in Paris isn't really all that terrifying. Yet.

Purely in business terms, Zuckerberg and his ilk are doing this because a great deal of prominent AI researchers and developers are coming out of the EU, something which Google have also noticed. Both giants are interested in furthering the research on a general basis, but they are particularly concerned with something called 'deep learning'.

The term refers to the research that is helping programs move towards a state of true AI and a lot of the ideas that have been implemented have appeared on social media platforms, such as image recognition and in the future a kind of personality recognition that tailors your news feed and tries to prevent you from uploading anything you might regret later. Essentially they want Facebook to really know you.

The Facebook home screen in 10 years... (via wikia.com)
Alongside virtual reality, AI is being regarded less as a means of creating sentient machinery (at least in this context) and more a means of making online interaction as personal and immersive as it can possibly be. In layman's terms, Facebook want the platform to be like your secretary, it will know you, sort all your appointments, keep you informed about your friends, organise your pictures and advise you. Supposedly the next step in that process will be teaching it to understand complete sentences and paragraphs, instead of just individual words. At the moment you can't really hold a conversation with vocal recognition software, that's the ultimate goal.

Facebook already have two AI research teams in the US, one in California and the other in New York, so this isn't such a massive step, but still a significant one. Initially only 6 researchers are being put on the job but that figure is supposed to double by the end of the year.

This isn't the kind of AI research that should be scaring anybody, despite warnings from Stephen Hawking. Even when and if it does arrive, human-level AI will likely be the reserved domain of far more important task than social media profiling. Having said that, one of the most prominent deep learning startups is called Skymind. It's like they're trying to freak us out.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Facebook AI Research Paris - What Do Facebook Need AI For? Reviewed by Callum Davies on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 Rating: 5

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