With such divergent views on artificial intelligence (AI) coming from the most influential thinkers and industry leaders engaged in its development and applications having a basic understanding of the technology and all of its potential contributions and risks is becoming more essential. These views range from apocalyptic warnings of its threat to human existence from Elon Musk, to its championing as a crucial component in preserving life from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
In the midst of this debate, Zuckerberg has undertaken a series of ambitious efforts in the area of AI: an ambitious creation of two AI robots (which were recently switched off after some language issues arose), to the creation of Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) as part of its larger family of research projects.
In terms of recruitment, the aim is to find “…people in FAIR who are making significant progress in AI, but to really move the bar it’s equally as important to be outward focused. To push the envelope, push the science and technology forward, we must be actively engaged with the research community. We publish a lot of things we do, distribute a lot of code on open-source, and engage deeply with academia to drive the progress,” according to Director Yann LeCun. To this end, Facebook has been more aggressively engaging on the topic with many tech and non-tech industry companies this year, like LinkedIn and Apple.
Despite the ubiquitous nature of AI, or perhaps owing to it, in terms of public knowledge and public information, still relatively little is known about it. To this end, LeCun and Facebook Director of Applied Machine Learning Joaquin Quiñonero Candela have created a series of blog posts and educational videos to explain the basics of AI, without all the complicated language, essentially explaining how AI builds upon, not operates independently of, algorithms and functions related to the brain.
The company explains codes in a more simplified way, Convolutional Neural Networks (ConvNet) and even some of the many areas which AI is being used that the public may not even be aware of. LeCun writes: “Artificial intelligence is not magic...but we have already seen how it can make seemingly magical advances in scientific research and contribute to the everyday marvel of identifying objects in photos, recognizing speech, driving a car, or translating an online post into dozens of languages.” Also addressed are the very real debates and concerns surrounding questions related to human versus mechanized labor, a topic we have touched upon before.
FAIR Director LeCun added about the impact of their efforts: "What is intelligence and how can we reproduce it in machines? The answers to these questions will help us not just build intelligent machines, but develop keener insight into how the mysterious human mind and brain work." From all industry assessments, AI is here to stay and will have a long future, so it is up to all of us to embrace it and educate ourselves.